Globalstar embraces LTE in revamped terrestrial communications plan
WASHINGTON — After giving up a contested effort to pair licensed and unlicensed spectrum for a new wireless service, mobile satellite services provider Globalstar has revamped its terrestrial communications plan to create an LTE service instead, company officials told investors Jan. 6.
The LTE service will rely solely on the satellite operator’s 11.5 MHz of spectrum located at the 2.4 GHz band, ending a multi-year dispute with other telecommunications and electronics companies that put up fierce resistance to Globalstar’s original plan of combining its spectrum with 10.5 MHz of unlicensed spectrum to offer what it called TLPS, or Terrestrial Low Power Service.
Opponents of Globalstar’s TLPS plan argued that the service would cause substantial interference in unlicensed spectrum — a claim Globalstar denied. Another a stumbling block was the appearance that Globalstar would have unique, unfair privileges in the unlicensed spectrum.
The U.S. Federal Communications Commission approved Globalstar’s LTE plan in late December, just six weeks after the company submitted its revised solution for easing WiFi congestion, particularly in crowded urban settings.
Globalstar says it can still open up significant amounts of spectrum with an LTE service instead. LTE, which stands for Long-Term Evolution, is a telecom industry standard for high-speed wireless communications for mobile phones.
“As we move to the LTE standard we are much better able to cope with the reality of how the spectrum will be used in very dense environments, and that means that effectively this resource will be, we think, much more efficient and effective than the original TLPS resource,” said John Dooley, managing director at Jarvinian Ventures, a research and investment firm that worked closely with Globalstar on TLPS since 2012.
Dooley said Globalstar and Jarvinian Ventures originally thought creating an LTE ecosystem would be “a cathedral-building effort” for just one company to pursue, but that transceivers — devices that can both transmit and receive — have evolved significantly since 2012, and as a result Globalstar has a comparable road to market with LTE as it did with TLPS.
Jay Monroe, CEO of Globalstar, said the company will seek to make this LTE service global, and will not seek to recreate TLPS in other parts of the world. Monroe anticipates regulators in other countries will recognize the meaningfulness of Globalstar’s globally harmonized band.
Monroe also said Globalstar will seek to raise “a modest amount of capital” in 2017 and 2018. In December the company completed a $1 billion capital program which included a second-generation ground systems update from Hughes Network Systems and Ericsson. Monroe said having a combined second-generation satellite constellation and a second generation ground network will enable new products such as a Spot satellite device with two-way communications and the Sat-Fi 2 satellite Wi-Fi hotspot.
Globalstar did not state how much capital it would seek to raise, but Monroe said that Thermo Capital Partners, an investment firm he co-founded and at which he remains a managing partner, will support the initiative.
“For any capital raising efforts that come up in the coming years, Thermo intends to, as always, meaningfully participate. We have always been supportive of the company. We’ve been supportive of the company when times were dire. Post-FCC approval, we are even more bullish on Globalstar’s long term prospects,” he said.