Thursday, October 30, 2008

FCC Allows GlobalStar / Open Range to Offer MSS/WiMAX

The FCC granted in part a request by Globalstar to modify its authority for an ancillary terrestrial component ("ATC") to be operated in conjunction with the Globalstar Mobile Satellite Service ("MSS") system. Specifically, the FCC modified Globalstar's license to permit use of the WiMAX air interface protocol. Globalstar and its spectrum lessee, Open Range Communications, are now permitted to commence deployment of a broadband service consistent with a $267 million loan commitment from the Department of Agriculture's Rural Development Utilities Program.

According to the FCC order, Globalstar plans to collaborate with one or more "terrestrial partners" to offer MSS
bundled together with ATC broadband service. To that end, Globalstar has entered into a spectrum lease agreement with Open Range. Under the terms of the agreement, Open Range would construct and operate an ATC network using S-band spectrum leased from Globalstar. The two companies would provide MSS/ATC service to customers equipped with dual-mode handheld terminals, Open Range providing the ATC service and Globalstar providing the MSS component.

The first-generation mobile device for the Globalstar/Open Range rural broadband service offering would be a MSS/ATC handheld unit based on the same architecture as Globalstar's SPOT Satellite Personal Tracker.

For the initial rollout of the Globalstar/Open Range service offering, the existing SPOT device would be adapted to incorporate a WiMAX broadband modem for access to the Globalstar/Open Range ATC network through a standard USB connection to
laptop computers or connection to VoIP phones. Open Range plans to deploy these first-generation broadband ATC services beginning in the second quarter of 2009, first to approximately 2,500 customers in 5 markets in a "proof-of-concept
deployment." These customers will receive the first generation device with one-way only, low-data rate MSS capabilities, but will be offered an exchange upgrade when a newer device becomes available beginning in early 2010. The newer device will be upgradeable to include a chipset that is capable of supporting two-way high-speed MSS. This device would be deployed in approximately 189-217 markets. The chipset, to be manufactured by Hughes Network Systems, is scheduled to become available in production quantities in early 2011.