tv The Communicators CSPAN October 1, 2011 6:30pm-7:00pm EDT
lightsquared technology may interfere with gps equipment. >> sanjiv ahuja is the ceo of lightsquared. what is lightsquared, and what you do? >> what lightsquared is trying to do is build and nationwide industrial broadband network working with the satellite. that will connect americans coast to coast for the first time. every square inch of american soil will be able to be connected, whether it is hawaii, alaska, california, maine, to florida. if you can look of the americans guy, you can talk on the phone. for the first time -- look at
the american sky, you can talk on the phone. for the first time, americans will have connectivity, even if there are national -- natural disasters and other things happening, through a satellite network. the technology will be built to date, but complemented with the satellite we launched last year, the largest commercial satellite ever, so that whether you are in yellowstone national park, grand canyon or the appalachian trail, you are connected. >> are you operational now? >> know. our satellite is operational. we're in the process of moving customers over to the satellite. >> who are your customers? >> retailers. we do not go directly to the consumer. we go to other companies that take our service and offer it to the consumers. to date, we have signed 17
customers. think of it from a consumer's perspective. the 17 companies, when we are operational, can offer nationwide broadband wireless connectivity to american consumers. today, when you look for a nationwide service, you have three, maybe four choices. we have enabled 17 countries to get into that business. some of those are national carriers today. sprint, for instance, it is a customer. but 15 other companies, we enable them to the national carriers because there reselling our service to american consumers. that is something that has never happened anywhere in the world,
not just in the united states come anywhere in the world. we really give some and more choices to the consumer instead of having very limited, few choices. we expect the number could be as high as close to 100. more competition, more choices, lower prices. >> your competitors would be verizon, at&t, comcast? >> we actually look at these as either current partners, as sprint is, or potential partners. what we are providing to them is wireless broadband capacity. whether it is at&t, verizon or comcast. take at&t or verizon specifically, if they need capacity in new york or washington, how many times are your calls dropped today? how many times is your data
connection dropped? it is because there is congestion in the network. there is capacity shortage. we can supplement that capacity for either at&t, verizon, or all of them. we look at these companies either as our current customers and or is our potential customers, because what the industry is lacking is capacity. few years ago when we started building the plan for this business, we were anticipating the industry would grow 30-40 times over the next six-seven years. today i look at it. it will grow more than 50 times in the next four years. i think if we look at it six months or a year from now, our forecast would be even faster than that. the demand is growing much faster than anybody anticipated. supply is limited. and we believe that we help
augment that supply pretty significantly. so all of these companies are either our current partners or our potential partners. >> recently, lightsquared took out full-page ads in several publications, and in that ad, you wrote, "recently, concerns have been raised about interference with the interference with the lightsquared product with gps devices." what are those concerns, and who raised them? >> that me step back and walk you through the history of light squared -- let me step back and walk you through the history of lightsquared and a spectrum we're using today. the spectrum was allocated in 1989. that is a time when there was no option. companies were going in getting the spectrum as they needed it. a lot of the current wireless large operators came into existence at the time. this spectrum was originally
allocated for satellite purposes. in early 2000, 2001, 2003, 2005, under republican and ministrations -- administrations, getting permission to build a terrestrial network, working in conjunction with the satellite network. gps manufacturers participated in the process and supported the process. we made comments on our network design. we talked about how we live as good neighbors, because gps spectrum is next door to the lightsquared spectrum. we defined rules that lightsquared will not transmitted to the dps spectrum. that required us to make -- the gps spectrum.
that requires us to make a big wall on our site. in 2010, when you're asking for a change of control, when we required the predecessor company to lightsquared, called skyterra, the fcc mandated as to build a network at a rate no company in the history of the united states, no telecom company, has ever been required to. we are required in mandated by the fcc to cover 260 million americans by the end of 2015. it is a very aggressive investment schedule, and a very aggressive buildup schedule, so it is technically a big challenge, but we stepped up to it. we're excited, because we really believe it is a great opportunity and you get to serve the american people that are being charged more terrorist
than people in other parts of the world, the getting network -- tariffs than other people in the world, that are getting network quality that leaves a lot to be desired. we accepted the conditions. in fall of 2010, we went to fcc and asked for a change in the kind of device we would have. now, the devices we were building until that time would have full satellite coverage. one of our large customers said that can they offer a service where you have a device that is terrestrial only, and as well as a device that is terrestrial and satellite. at that time, the gps industry
council stepped up and said, we are concerned because you are adjacent to our network. the issue was not what we were transmitting to the gps spectrum. the issue was gps devices, looking over into our spectrum. what happened was, we were building a network which was adjacent to the gps. we actually moved down to the lower part of the spectrum. we're very far away. it is like you are constructing a building. we have a piece of land and the gps has a piece of land. they say if you build close to us, we have trees falling in to us. do not build close to us. build farther away. that actually alleviated -- we have over 400 million gps devices in this country, your cell phones, your personal
navigation devices in your cars. most of those problems went away. the cell phones are not affected. the personal application devices are not affected when we move to the other end of the spectrum. out of 400 million, there are around 500,000 devices that are used for three specific applications, agriculture, large tractors, construction and surveying, that were impacted by us being in that part of the spectrum. we have always believed, and i believe very passionately that this is a problem that could cause interference. i have been in this business for 30 years. i have built wireless networks in three different countries.
ahead interference every time i have tried to build a network. i have built them from india to bangladesh to can yet to uganda to rwanda to tanzania to united states. every time you build a network there is interference. now, last week, we found a device that helps solve the problem for agricultural devices, surveying and construction devices. so, we can now live harmonious lee with our neighbors and gps, and have both networks up. ultimately, the goal and the objective is, how does the american consumer, how do you, how do why, how do our friends and family gains lightsquared from the -- gain from the
lightsquared network? if you put a technical challenge to americans, they can confidently saw the. i confidently believe that -- solved it. i confidently believe that. here is the proof that it can be done. now let's work harmoniously. let's work into the plan to replace or reset the devices that are out there, because farmers are asking. a farmer says yes, i need a precision navigational device, but i also want broadband. i want my children to do their homework while they're connected to the internet. they do not say, give me this or that. they say give me both. and that is our responsibility. >> sanjiv ahuja is the chairman
and ceo of lightsquared. our guest reporter is with the washington post. >> even if there is an engineering solution, a technical solution to these interference problem, and you will have to do more testing of some portion of those devices, of course, what about the cost? i know you have committed more than $100 million to defray some of these costs for some of these solutions, filters etc. the federal government, i believe, the general shelton of has even mentioned other government officials that it could be in the billions of dollars that the federal government will have to incur. there is a big discrepancy in the dollar figures here, and the costs of batteries all this technical problem. can you talk about -- in the
costs of how to resolve this technical problem. can you talk about this huge gulf of dollar figures? >> a few months ago, we were hearing that it would take 10 years to solve this problem technically. it took as less than 10 weeks to demonstrate that the problem can be solved. it is not as hard as would some of the people might have believed. our estimate is that the federal government has summer between 30,000-50,000 of these precision receivers. we have offered the federal government $50 million of either replacement, refitting for refurbishment of existing precision receivers that federal government uses. we believe that is a sufficient amount of money to replace most of the receivers or fix most of
the receivers that are out there. we obviously do not have precise numbers of data at a federal government to see how many receivers they have today. when i think that our department of defense systems, a have absolute confidence that these are resilience systems, these are the systems that can handle transmissions not just from our band, but hopefully, even within the gps band. i am confident we're building defense systems that can handle things you can buy off the shelf at an electronics shop or on ebay today that transmitting within the gps frequency, and we are so far from the gps
frequency. i think once we go through the testing -- we're not gone through the testing yet. some of the information that you might hear might be based on old information. i think once the new testing happens, i am absolutely confident that we in this country have robust and resilience department of defense systems. as an american citizen, i want to make sure that our defenses t.e resilience -- resilienc some federal officials are concerned that the american people will have to incur the costs, beyond what you are willing to commit. senator grassley is sending a letter today asking the fcc and your company what the costs are that this would incur to the federal government and to taxpayers.
the concern is, why should a private company, why should americans takeover the cost of resolving a problem for a private company? >> i am not aware of senator grassley is letter, so i cannot speak to what the letter might say, what i can speak to is, look, we have made what we think is a very adequate offer for the federal government. it is a $300 solution per device to put this filter on devices so that precision can work properly with them. with them. i think it takes care of most if not all of the federal devices that we are aware of. if there is more, that information has not been shared. if you look at consumer devices, since 2001, 2002, 2003, 2005,
some of these commercial device manufacturers, all of them have been aware that there is going to be a network in the spectrum. >> but did they believe it would be a terrestrial only network? >> that has nothing to do with the interference. the interference is all about what we transfer from our base stations. devices have no physical impact on gps because all of the devices we have on our network, we expect them to be gps enabled. it is all about what we transmit out of our base station, and that information has been there -- some of the filings of the gps manufacturers talk about this happening in the potential
impact it would have on their business. adding this resilience to the device would have cost a few since of it was done properly at this time. this time. -- cents if it was done properly it that time. building devices over the years better not good neighbors to how we should be living is fairly disappointing, and i think that is the situation we're in. i would say that if i'm buying a product that the manufacturer of the product, if i look at it from my personal vantage point, the manufacturer of the product you very well that -- knew very well that there is a potential network coming in the neighborhood of that because it is allocated and allowed, fcc has specifically specify the specifications of how that
network would look like, i would make sure that the devices work, and four hundred million plus of those devices work fine. your iphone, your blackberry, your personal navigation system, they all work ok. in the context of this, you have to look at, what do americans want. when i look around the country, they want broadband, just like they want their gps. when i talk to farmers in kansas, they are saying tonight give me positioned the -- give me precision gps or broad band. they say give me both. a me give you an example. i was talking to a friend of mine. mine. she is more than half way from any city in tanzania and she had five bites on her phone. she was living with her parents
in atlanta, ga., and she had zero bars on her phone. and in that town, the residents of that town, every afternoon, one of them drives with their blackberries and iphones to go download e-mail. once a day. it is like the days of fetching water. that is what americans are asking for. they are saying give us both and we have a solution that gives them both. >> without a doubt, your business plan is completely parallel, in lockstep with what this government wants in terms of broad band. the obama administration is calling for this. you said earlier that the fcc mandated you to do the biggest terrestrial broadband out reach ever, covering to under 60 million people. in retrospect, it has been a
tough few months for lightsquared in terms of a lot of the politics around the process by which your company was off the ground with the regulatory process as well. in retrospect, do you wish that maybe, or do you think that if the fcc could have tapped a broader and bigger and process, meaning, do you think that it merited a full commission vote aside from the 2010 license transfer you referred to, the 2011 waiver. these things happen, some would say fast, i know you do not. but you think it merited more attention given the weight of this project. it is the biggest project ever for the sec, as you said.
should it have been -- fcc, as he said. critics this company started building a network in -- >> this company started building a network in 2005. >> but there is no mandate. >> but we started building the network in 2005. for a minute, ignore 2010. you can go back to 2005, when we had a republican administration. the company had authorization to build the network. it had the financial it had the financial wherewithal -- if it had the financial wherewithal, it would've been operational for several years already. the network would of been there. it is not a question of what happened in 20 tanner 2011. this is, you have to go back to to -- happened in 2010 or 2011.
this is, you have to go back to 2005. this has gone through the full and t i a, fcc process with the government participating, industry participating, all of that before the change of control. i think it is more important to say, ok, what happened in 2005, 2003? because when we acquired the company in 2010, we acquired it on the basis of what authorization it had in 2005. then we moved on to change of control in 2010. >> i guess i am asking, do you wish there was more of a thorough process? regardless of what happened in 2005, because it is such an import network, such an important plan for both the fcc and potentially the country,
maybe would not be in the situation today about all the concerns with new testing, new solutions, the politics, the hearings on capitol hill. in retrospect, do you think that yes, there might have been a process started in 2005, but nobody thought there would be this lte solution in 2010 today, and the grand reach of it? >> the process was very robust. it had participation from congress, ntia, support and review and participation by all industry players. that process took several months. this is not done in a week or two or a month. it took several months of process. it is disappointing that some of the things that have been done
today -- they did not think about those in 2003, 2005, and the second half of 2009 as the process was going on. we have been asked to do the most extensive testing. i am comfortable doing the testing. interference issues will be solved and they're working on solving them. they have solved most of the issues. now the question is, what happens when the network gets out there? it is not any more that technically it cannot be done. i have been saying for months now that these are technical issues that should be solved and dealt with. i have had and continue to have absolute confidence in the engineering capabilities of this country. i was trained as an engineer in the united states. i know how good the talent is.
as i said, our souls -- i have solved interference issue since the early days of the wireless industry. >> in a sense, and tell me if this is wrong, but it sounds innocent as if you're saying trust me to the american public, to the faa, to the sec. >> i'm saying trust the american engineers. trust american ingenuity. we could put a man on the man. our engineers designed a system to do it. for the last 20 years from the for the last 20 years from the first network coon, we assault interference issues. they have solved it -- we have solved interference issues. they have solved this one. we announced last week. i am also saying, americans are saying, cut my tariffs. give me broadbent coverage.
provide access to my children over the network. americans are asking for all of that and i'm saying, let's trust the american engineers to provide all of it. >> what next? are you going to meet your deadline? are you going to meet the time line you wanted given this new testing mandate? what is next? if i was an investor, i would be thinking, wow. hundreds could be killed. this is a public safety problem. >> we're working very hard and making sure we deliver and the fcc mandate to us to build the network on schedule. i would say that not only are we confident of making those commitments, we think we will
cover 260 million americans by the end of 2014, a year ahead of the mandate, and we're able to do it because for the first time in the industry, first time anywhere in the world, the relationship we have with sprint. think about next year when we launched our network. i will give you an example. my family gets excited. my friend excited. today, if you want unlimited data and text on your cellular phone, go there. you can get a package anywhere you can get a package anywhere from