Federal Communications Commission

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Promoting Wireless Investment and Innovation

March 29th, 2010 by Paul deSa

Last week the FCC's International Bureau approved a license transfer application, originally filed in March 2009, involving Harbinger Capital Partners and SkyTerra Communications.

This approval sets the stage for billions of dollars of investment -- and corresponding job creation -- to construct and operate a new, national, broadband network integrating satellite and ground-based facilities. Consistent with the recommendations in the National Broadband Plan, we hope that Harbinger's investment will increase the spectrum used for broadband, enhance wireless competition, and spur innovation and entrepreneurship in the broadband ecosystem -- particularly as the proposed network will be both open and offer wholesale 4G services.

Although the specifics of their business model are obviously highly confidential due to their competitive sensitivity, we were gratified that Harbinger volunteered commitments that were both consistent with their plans and assured the FCC that the promised public interest benefits of the transaction would indeed materialize. These commitments -- building out the network to 260 million Americans by 2015 and allowing the FCC prior review of potential leases of spectrum or capacity to the two largest incumbent carriers -- do not prohibit any specific transactions. But they do provide some reassurance that the approval will ignite new broadband competition while protecting the public from any potential harms.

Harbinger’s commitments are, of course, specific to this transaction involving mobile satellite service spectrum and do not affect any of our other spectrum policies (any changes to the Commission's general spectrum policies would involve a notice and comment rulemaking process).

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