Julius Knapp, the head of the Federal Communications Commission’s office of engineering and technology, is to testify today in front of a Congress committee that the GPS industry had ample time to alert the FCC of problems with LightSquared, according to prepared comments submitted to the FCC’s website.
“The [FCC] routinely hears from parties that are concerned that new services will cause interference,” Knapp’s submitted testimony says. “In this instance – unlike any other that I can recall in my decades at the FCC – the GPS industry did not do so until very late in the proceeding,” it continues. During the decade preceding a request to halt LightSquared’s progress in November 2010, the GPS industry had numerous opportunities to inform the FCC of the receiver overload interference issue ultimately raised in 2010, according to the testimony.
Currently going highly contested Chapter 11 proceedings, LightSquared cannot deploy its service commercially because of the unresolved interference issue. The next step in the bankruptcy largely depends on how the FCC will rule with respect to its ability to start building out a commercial wireless network without causing GPS interference. So industry watchers are looking to see how the hearing with the Energy & Commerce Committee of the House of Representatives will play out.
As LCD has reported, the various theories of who will wind up running LightSquared and how it will extract value remain hotly debated. Distressed investors that snapped up the debt – David Tepper’s Appaloosa Management, Fortress Capital, Knighthead Capital Management and Redwood Capital Management – look to be trying to wrest control from Phil Falcone-run hedge fund that owns the telecom company Harbinger Capital Partners. Recently, the ad hoc group filed an objection to LightSquared’s motion seeking a 150-day extension of the exclusive period during which the company alone may file a reorganization plan, which is set for Oct. 1.
LightSquared’s request boils down to the argument that the company cannot move forward until the FCC rules on whether it can deploy its 4G LTE wireless-broadband network.
The hearing tomorrow is on the “process and decision-making” leading up to the FCC’s grant of a conditional waiver to LightSquared. It will focus on “whether the FCC’s handling of LightSquared was consistent with prevailing FCC policies, procedures, and precedents,” according to the description.
According to Knapp’s testimony, the FCC’s is currently reviewing the “extensive” record developed in response to the recommendations made by the international bureau earlier this year to suspend LightSquared’s plans indefinitely to build out a network. While some industry watchers thought the FCC could issue its decision within the week, Knapp referred to a council at the FCC conducting a receiver performance workshop, saying the Commission expects information “in the next few weeks.” – Max Frumes