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Wireless Networking Businesses The Almighty Buck

LightSquared Files For Bankruptcy 138

Posted by Soulskill
from the can't-wait-for-the-new-conspiracy-theories dept.
fallen1 writes "Wireless broadband company LightSquared has filed for bankruptcy. In filings with U.S. Bankruptcy court, it was revealed that LightSquared had assets and debts of over $1 billion each. The decision followed a year-long fight between LightSqaured and GPS users — including some heavyweights like FedEx and UPS. Apparently Boeing and Alcatel-Lucent are heavily invested, but it would be interesting to see what the old Bell Labs could do with the technology."
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LightSquared Files For Bankruptcy

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  • by Defenestrar (1773808) on Monday May 14, 2012 @04:08PM (#39998611)
    This was decided way back at the final interference testing. This is merely formalizing the failure of the business.
    • This is rather the failing of government to enforce proper frequency use and shielding by lazy engineers, i.e. the GPS industry.

      • by plover (150551) *

        There are no effective shields that wouldn't also block the GPS signals themselves. Even though you don't know what you're talking about, you are thinking of high pass filters, and guess what, sunshine? There are no such things as filters precise enough to isolate the GPS signals from the Lightsquared signals. Not even close. They don't exist today, and they can't be made with today's technology.

        Come back and make this kind of foolish statement after getting your doctorate in electrical engineering, and

        • > There are no such things as filters precise enough to isolate the GPS signals from the Lightsquared signals. Not even close. They don't exist today, and they can't be made with today's technology.

          Not true. It is possible make a filter precise enough to isolate GPS signals from Lightsquared signals with today's technology, but it's expensive and bulky to do so. A number of higher-end GPS units had no problem with Lightsquared signals for just that reason. Lightsquared used those results to try and bl

  • by busyqth (2566075) on Monday May 14, 2012 @04:10PM (#39998625)
    1) Come up with profitable idea that violates the laws of physics
    2) Use political influence to get around the laws of physics
    3) PROFIT!

    ... well maybe not.
  • Most people just see the GPS side of this fight, afraid of losing GPS in the continental U.S. In reality it would have mostly affected those who needed extreme precision, not the average users. That's not to say that losing the precision is good, no it's clearly bad for everyone. However, lightsquared wanted to give wireless internet to everyone in the continental U.S. It's just a shame there wasn't some technical way to resolve the issue before lawyers got involved.
    • by icebike (68054) *

      Just buy different spectrum.

      • by busyqth (2566075)
        Yeah but that spectrum that wasn't useful for high power terrestrial transmissions was so much cheaper!
      • by lcam (848192)

        The spectrum they bought was probably dirt cheap. No way to make a profit with spectrum that is more in demand.

        Dirt cheap because nobody else would touch it (for good reason).

        • by jeffmeden (135043) on Monday May 14, 2012 @04:29PM (#39998847) Homepage Journal

          The spectrum they bought was probably dirt cheap. No way to make a profit with spectrum that is more in demand.

          Dirt cheap because nobody else would touch it (for good reason).

          Did you miss the part in TFA where it explained that "LightSquared invested $4 billion in airwaves"? 4 Billion is still a lot of money, at least where I come from. I suppose for a nationwide network it probably pales in comparison to what AT&T or Verizon hold, but it is still a substantial investment. I wonder if the FCC will give them a refund on all those unused EM rays?

          • by bobbied (2522392) on Monday May 14, 2012 @04:46PM (#39999045)

            Did you miss the part in TFA where it explained that "LightSquared invested $4 billion in airwaves"? 4 Billion is still a lot of money, at least where I come from. I suppose for a nationwide network it probably pales in comparison to what AT&T or Verizon hold, but it is still a substantial investment. I wonder if the FCC will give them a refund on all those unused EM rays?

            Oh sure, 4$ billion is a lot of money. Problem here is Verizon, AT&T, Sprint etc spent even more for spectrum space allotted for high power use and Light Squared was trying to buy cheap spectrum and then get the rules changed. There was no way they could afford spectrum allotted for this kind of use and make their business model work. The licenses they have purchased can be sold to pay their creditors, but I don't think the FCC is going to give them a refund.

            Bye Bye Light Squared...

            • A modulation technique that didn't crater GPS would have been a start. If you look at the filing, their CFO still believes that they can get a deal with the FCC. So it proves the Insanity Law, 2x. Entrepreneurs will try to defy physics, then do it again. Good luck with that.

              • by bobbied (2522392)

                It's not about modulation, it's about power levels required to make their receivers work at usable data speeds totally swamping the front ends of the adjacent GPS receivers.

                They could lower power levels, but you have to obey Physics by giving up your data rate and wiz bang modulation techniques are not going to fix the problem for you. I suppose one could get a some pretty low data rate stuff (like under 300 baud) to work at some really low powers. But it's going to be very expensive for the data rate yo

    • by sjames (1099) on Monday May 14, 2012 @04:16PM (#39998707) Homepage

      Lightsquared wanted to provide wireless internet at a price (not give). They also wanted to do it on the cheap so they could make money hand over fist. They failed.

      Had they wanted to offer wireless at a fair price for a reasonable profit, they would have licensed spectrum appropriate for that application.

    • by DeepLinux (233509) on Monday May 14, 2012 @04:18PM (#39998719)

      What?

      They purchased air to ground spectrum and tried to re-purpose it as ground to ground spectrum. They sued when the FCC told them to go take a running jump.

      Then tried to claim that GPS vendors were at fault for not having perfect notch filters in their equipment (hint such a thing is not physically possible)

      • by zlives (2009072)

        "(hint such a thing is not physically possible)" thinking outside the box!!?

        • by busyqth (2566075) on Monday May 14, 2012 @04:47PM (#39999055)
          If there's one thing I've learned from management seminars, it's that "thinking outside the box" is a very powerful tool.
          In fact, since I've started applying this principle in my daily life I have been able to do all sorts of things that the average guy wouldn't think are possible, such as levitate, wall through walls, bend spoons with the force of my will, and build perfect notch filters.
        • by jd2112 (1535857)

          "(hint such a thing is not physically possible)" thinking outside the box!!?

          My employer tells me to think outside the box but then sticks me in a cube...

        • by Caerdwyn (829058)

          "(hint such a thing is not physically possible)" thinking outside the box!!?

          We eagerly await your perfect notch filter. You're gonna be richer than Zuckerberg!

    • by Holi (250190)

      Lightsquared anted to "SELL" internet to everyone, they certainly didn't want to give anything away.

    • by bmo (77928)

      Most people just see the GPS side of this fight, afraid of losing GPS in the continental U.S. In rreality it would have mostly affected those who needed extreme precision,

      You mean like land surveyors and engineers. Yeah, people whose livelihoods depend on accurate GPS, because they build useless things like highways, bridges, airports, power plants, and other useless shit like that.

      Get the fuck off of Slashdot.

      --
      BMO

      • Last I looked, (a week ago, but hey, maybe it's changed in the last 7 days) surveyors used transits and lasers, not GPS. Even a surveyor's transit is more accurate than GPS. Being accurate to within a few feet (or even a couple of inches, 9 times out of 10, with enhanced units) is not good enough in an urban setting.
        • by bws111 (1216812)

          Have a look at (a href="http://trl.trimble.com/docushare/dsweb/Get/Document-140079/022543-079K_TrimbleR8GNSS_DS_0412_LR_sec.pdf"> this. Positioning to 3mm. These are not hand-held consumer units.

          • by bws111 (1216812)

            Grr. Corrected link [trimble.com]

            • by bmo (77928)

              Thank you.

              >3mm

              About the width of a tack.

              --
              BMO

              • Have you ever used a transit or other surveying tool? I doubt it.

                Read the footnotes - nobody is going to use that for a quick survey to lay out the foundations for a building. For example, mode 1 - +/- HALF A METER (not 3mm)

                Accuracy and reliability may be subject to anomalies due to multipath, obstructions, satellite geometry, and atmospheric conditions. The specifications stated recommend the use of stable mounts in an open sky view, EMI and multipath clean environment, optimal GNSS constellation conf

        • by dietdew7 (1171613)
          Look harder next time.
        • by bmo (77928) on Monday May 14, 2012 @05:01PM (#39999217)

          >Last I looked, (a week ago, but hey, maybe it's changed in the last 7 days) surveyors used transits and lasers, not GPS

          You would be wrong.

          Surveyors were using GPS before the "fuzzing" and after the fuzzing, surveyors were using Differential GPS (google this). Because the fuzzing was in one magnitude and direction it was trivial to correct for. Set up on a known point, correct for it, bam, your GPS now works like it did before the fuzzing.

          Now that the charade of fuzzing is over, everybody uses GPS. Everyone. Especially now.

          What you are also ignoring is the fact that the longer an antenna is left in one position and more satellites fly over, you get better and better resolution. Swinging a machete and cutting line takes time and costs money. If you can get a location by setting up on a point and gathering data for half a day instead of cutting line and running a traverse to get to it for two days, then you've come out way ahead.

          The ultimate goal of land surveying is to be able to reconstruct a piece of land and who owns it even if it is vaporized by a nuclear explosion. GPS gives you this cheaply.

          --
          BMO

          • by bmo (77928)

            In order to reply to myself as a follow up

            Land surveyors are involved in land disputes and building. All the way from your 100x100 lot to nuclear reactors, bridges and roads, etc.

            There are tools in the toolbox spanning from clapping your hands at 90 degrees, wooden beenies and stakes, handheld levels and stadia rods, to steel tape, to total stations to GPS. Just like a programmer has more than one language under his belt, the toolbox of a land surveyor has more stuff in it than most people think, especia

          • Swinging a machete and cutting line takes time and costs money. If you can get a location by setting up on a point and gathering data for half a day instead of cutting line and running a traverse to get to it for two days, then you've come out way ahead.

            What part of that is congruent with my "is not good enough in an urban setting"?

            the longer an antenna is left in one position and more satellites fly over, you get better and better resolution.

            A transit is quick to set up and get working within a minute

            • by bmo (77928)

              What part of that is congruent with my "is not good enough in an urban setting"?

              Since when is land surveying restricted to urban settings?

              A transit is quick to set up and get working within a minute or so, doesn't "get more accurate as you wait for more satellites to pass overhead", etc. Also, a transit will work fine in a warehouse or other strutural building where the steel walls and shielding would cause problems with GPS, as well as underground, where GPS absolutely cannot work. Or do you have a neutri

              • Why not read my post as it was intended instead of being a confrontational jerk?

                My post referenced urban settings, for which GPS is not the quick+best solution, compared to a simple transit+laser (which also works great using a laser-controlled blade on a bulldozer, if you've ever seen a Cat D9 doing finish grading inside a large metal-clad building, which your GPS solution wouldn't work in). You then post something totally off (machetes in a jungle) and when I point it out, you again go "since when is la

                • *Nobody* in this ENTIRE conversation said that GPS was better than the other tools in all circumstances. It was YOU that said that they don't use it at all. The others are not trying to say that the other tools have been replaced by GPS (as you did in your initial post), but that GPS is still used in CONJUNCTION with other tools.
        • by plover (150551) *

          Everywhere around here for residential use, surveyors use GPS to locate existing reference markers, and from there, they use transits to locate the needed points. However, I think the commercial/road builders use GPS as their primary source, because they need speed more than they need high precision. They can't spend time continually hunting for stakes; and when a road is off by an inch but is well within its right of way, it just doesn't matter.

          • You can certainly use a gps to find an existing marker to start from - you just can't use the gps as the only tool. You still need to do the actual measurements the "old way" - in part because GPS is too accurate.

            When a humungous plot of land is repeatedly sub-divided, it's very rare that the land is perfectly flat, so you have "slop" - an accumulation of inaccuracies because you're measurement includes slight slopes up and down.

            For example, you have a plot that was laid out as 10 miles, 250', 4" wide o

    • by msauve (701917)
      "However, lightsquared wanted to give wireless internet to everyone in the continental U.S."

      Stop it. They wanted to sell wireless Internet access to everyone in the US. Internet access based on spectrum which they paid satellite rates for, but wanted to use terrestrially.
    • by Solandri (704621)

      Most people just see the GPS side of this fight, afraid of losing GPS in the continental U.S. In reality it would have mostly affected those who needed extreme precision, not the average users.

      It would've also affected cheap GPS receivers which can barely pull in enough signal to get a fix as is. Like the ones in your smartphone, and showing up in cameras and a gazillion other gadgets. Dedicated GPS units like found in boat and car GPSes probably would've been ok. But the reason GPS has spread to gadge

  • by icebike (68054) * on Monday May 14, 2012 @04:11PM (#39998633)

    Did these guys have any significant technology? (Just askin, I really don't know. Even the Lightsquared Faq [lightsquared.com] is fairly useless at explaining what they have that hasn't been done before)

    And if they did, why not move it somewhere else to some radio spectrum where it will not interfere, such as, but not limited to some of the bandwidth Verizon is finding un-useful in the 700mhz band that they can't pawn off on anybody. [slashgear.com]

    It seems to me that the only problem they had was a dependence on the wrong block of spectrum. On the other hand, any company that wants to push ahead with a spectrum usage with total disregard for existing spectrum use and the safety concerns of the entire GPS community probably isn't a company you want setting up this type of service in the first place.

    • by fallen1 (230220)

      You know, you may be right in that they did not necessarily have "new tech" to try and take advantage of the spectrum. Perhaps I should have worded it "see what the old Bell Labs could do with the idea that fostered this company."??

      • Coming soon to a venture capital fund-raiser near you - DarkSquare!

        They'll take all those wires that nobody's using and push the Internet through them!

        It'll be *HUGE*. Be the first sucker^W savvy investor to get in on the ground floor! What could go wrong?

    • by cpu6502 (1960974)

      What's wrong with the old UHF-TV spectrum (700 Megahertz)? They made use of the higher-UHF bands (800/900 MHz) for cellular expansion in the 80s.

      • It's in use, currently broadcasting TV.
        • by cpu6502 (1960974)

          >>>It's in use, currently broadcasting TV.

          hahahahahahahahahahaha. No. The 700 MHz band (channels 52 to 69) stopped broadcasting TV in 2009. And some fool moderator marked you +1 informative??? Wow.

    • by bobbied (2522392)

      And if they did, why not move it somewhere else to some radio spectrum where it will not interfere

      The answer to this question is simple they went cheap. They couldn't afford the spectrum they needed to make their business work so they purchased the cheap space next to GPS and they tried to use politics to get the FCC to let them re-purpose the cheap space for their use. They don't have any huge technology advance, they where just betting on the FCC changing its rules so they could get spectrum on the cheap. Without cheap spectrum, their business model wasn't going to work.

      The really sad thing here

      • I have only seen bits and pieces as this story came up so I'm curious, why were they allowed to license the spectrum in the first place and why was the space so "cheap" if it is so important that it not be used in the way they intended? Was it licensed for a particular use and they wanted to use it in a different way?

    • by tlhIngan (30335)

      Did these guys have any significant technology? (Just askin, I really don't know. Even the Lightsquared Faq is fairly useless at explaining what they have that hasn't been done before)

      And if they did, why not move it somewhere else to some radio spectrum where it will not interfere, such as, but not limited to some of the bandwidth Verizon is finding un-useful in the 700mhz band that they can't pawn off on anybody.

      It seems to me that the only problem they had was a dependence on the wrong block of spectrum.

      • by icebike (68054) *

        Very informative.

        So my initial assessment was correct:

        1) they did not have any novel new technology, (using terrestrial radio to avoid satellite hops is basic; carriers have been doing this since dirt)

        2) they simply had the wrong spectrum

      • Had the FCC said yes, you can bet AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, etc. would be eyeing vairous bits and pieces of the satellite band to purchase - it's that much cheaper.

        Not likely. Telcos already have better spectrum. 700/800 to get the broad coverage and 1900 to get higher capacity. And then there's Clearwire up in 2500 with the bandwidth capacity of a train. 1600 will work, but it's mediocre at best. The noise that wireless companies are making is because it's expensive to refarm existing spectrum. You

    • by Caerdwyn (829058)

      Did these guys have any significant technology?

      Lightspeed: the Enron of RF Spectrum.

  • ...on all those bribes, er, "campaign contributions".

    • by game kid (805301)

      There's the problem. Instead of insuring the bribes, PayPal kept them and froze LightSquared's account. Result: debt!

  • I've read various articles over the last year that the current administration wanted LightSquared to fail, in order to eliminate competition for a preferred provider (the company that gave campaign donations).

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Before LightSquared failed, the conspiracy theory was that LightSquared had bribed the current administration to let them in even though it would break everyone's satnav.

      Personally I don't think either of them are true; this is just your typical "venture capitalist thinks laws of physics can be bent to meet his business plan; bankruptcy ensues" story, with incompetence filling in for corruption as usual.

      • by cpu6502 (1960974)

        >>>Before LightSquared failed, the conspiracy theory was that LightSquared had bribed the current administration to let them in even though it would break everyone's satnav.

        Oh okay.
        Thanks for clarifying.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Citation please. Because that sounds like just the sort of thing some jerkoff would say to get back at an administration that thinks that having solid domestic GPS resolution for defense purposes is more important than this company's new technology.

      • by MightyMartian (840721) on Monday May 14, 2012 @04:27PM (#39998819) Journal

        It's all conspiracy bullshit. Their engineers had to know it was going to cause serious interference, and had to know that neither the FCC specifically, nor the US Government in general would ever let anyone trash GPS. It was an idiotic idea from the get-go, and now the company goes down the crapper for it.

        • It is certanly a case of the boss not accepting a "no" from the technical team. I can imagine how they hired outside consultants to tell them their engineers are wrong, and after negotiating a price, they told.

          I also can imagine the engineering boss having pointy hair.

  • It seemed obvious to me that this wasn't going to work out for them. I suppose this is an example of confirmation bias on my part as I'm sure I wouldn't be posting this if it had gone the other way, but seriously I gave this a 0% chance of success in my minds eye. One wonders why the investors thought that GPS users, the military among them, would roll over and have their devices cease functioning or even risk the interference...

    • The only explanation I can think of is that the investors were morons. But hey, lots of people but SCO stock too, believing they'd be making big bucks from licensing fees for every guy downloading a Linux distro.

  • Dear Soulskill (Score:3, Informative)

    by OzPeter (195038) on Monday May 14, 2012 @04:25PM (#39998805)

    If I can spot a major typo in the summary 2 seconds after seeing it for the first time ("Litesqaured" in this case) the you are not doing your fucking job.

    • by SomeJoel (1061138)

      If I can spot a major typo in the summary 2 seconds after seeing it for the first time ("Litesqaured" in this case) the you are not doing your fucking job.

      It's pretty clear that you're OK with minor typos.

    • Re:Dear Soulskill (Score:4, Informative)

      by Jeng (926980) on Monday May 14, 2012 @04:46PM (#39999033)

      They are not moderators, they are not editors, all they do is choose which stories to post, do not expect anything beyond that from them.

      Yes, they are listed as Editors, but I think that is just that there isn't really a good word for what little they do.

  • Don't buy cheap satellite spectrum to re-purpose for terrestrial use unless you've really thought it out.

    None of this would have happened if he had bought more expensive but less problematic terrestrial spectrum or bought a patch of spectrum farther away from the GPS band.

    His idea doubtless seemed clever at the time. And it was... if he didn't interfere with GPS. He did though even if it was all the fault of the GPS devices.

    Food for thought.

    • by bws111 (1216812)

      I believe it was all the fault of physics, not the GPS devices.

      • Apparently LS was right to the extent their machines were not interfering with those frequencies. But older and cheaper GPS devices were not shielded from powerful signals in other frequencies and so it interfered with them.

        So, it's not entirely LS fault... it just doesn't matter.

        • by bws111 (1216812)

          You're right that it doesn't matter, but as a point of clarification it was not the 'cheaper' devices that had problems, it was the very expensive high-precision ones. If those devices had any steeper filters the precision would go right down the toilet and the device would be useless.

    • by dietdew7 (1171613)
      It was all that and those meddling kids at the FCC.
      • It didn't help that the guy made "arrangements" with powerful people to get the way greased. Powerful people have powerful enemies. And by using those powerful people you acquire their enemies.

        They would have done better to keep their heads down and avoid involving themselves in political power struggles.

        That said, if you need powerful allies simply to get the FCC to give you a f'ing license then that speaks to the inefficiency of the organization.

    • by tomhath (637240)
      They knew it was impossible to do on that spectrum, but their plan was to buy additional satellite bands and make up in volume what they lost in...I don't know, reality?
  • ".... but it would be interesting to see what the old Bell Labs could do with the technology."

    This is a strange question. What 'technology' did LightSquared invent? Bell Labs came up with many of the fundamental ideas that are still used in wireless communications today, so it's difficult to see what they could learn from LightSquared.

  • They're filing chapter 11 bankruptcy, not chapter 7.

    Not promising regardless, but they're apparently not giving up yet.

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