Report: LightSquared to hire former Nextel head as new CEO
Thursday, March 1, 2012 @ 2:00am
Beleagured LightSquared, the LTE data company that is facing stiff government resistance to its GPS-fouling technology for implementing wireless networks, is said to be considering hiring former Sprint chairman and Nextel CEO Timothy Donahue to head the company following the resignation of former CEO Sanjiv Ahuja. The veteran telecommunications executive could help the company fight government opposition to its high-speed network plans.
Donahue was involved in a similar impasse while at Nextel, and worked with the FCC on a spectrum re-banding project to help overcome concerns regarding interference between Nextel's network and public safety devices. The US government has told LightSquared that there is "no practical way to mitigate interference" from the company's wireless broadcasting technology, which interferes with GPS systems of all types, including critical agricultural and aeronautical equipment.
Despite strong opposition from the FCC to the company's plans, it has extended the deadline for commenting on the case from March 1st to March 16th, which will give LightSquared more time to formulate a strategy to fight back. LightSquared has maintained that the reason its own equipment interferes with GPS receivers is that GPS equipment manufacturers exceeded the amount of spectrum they were allowed to use and are "squatting" on spectrum that LightSquared has rights to, and has asked the government to force GPS equipment makers to retrofit their products with fixes that would prevent the interference. Critics counter that such demands are unrealistic and would wreak havoc on existing GPS equipment if the company was allowed to move forward.
Donahue retired as Sprint chairman just 18 months after the wireless provider merged with Nextel. He has a long history of both telecommunications expertise and knowledge of dealing with federal agencies. LightSquared, which was founded by hedge fund manager Philip Falcone, has faced a series of regulatory and financial setbacks. Falcone himself has joined the board to act as a spokesperson, and said the company was "commited to working ... to find a solution to the recent regulatory issues."