March 8, 2012

On November 15, 2010, the world’s most powerful commercial satellite, called Lightsquared, was launched into orbit, promising to provide North America with ubiquitous 4G wireless broadband service (and nationwide radiation). That particular venture by billionaire Philip Falcone quickly ran into legal trouble, and is not up and running. In fact Sprint, which entered into an arrangement to build the terrestrial part of Lightsquared’s network, will pull out of the deal on March 15 if Lightsquared does not secure FCC approval to use the frequencies allotted to it for land-based towers as well as for its satellites. The FCC has withheld permission because of potential interference with global-positioning systems.

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Now a new venture called Wild Blue Wireless has stepped into the void and launched its own powerful satellite, which promises to do not quite the same thing. It launched the ViaSat satellite on October 19, 2011, and began offering broadband service nationally from that satellite on January 16, 2012. Unlike Lightsquared, which was going to offer direct connections with Smart Phones, ViaSat is designed to deliver high speed broadband to homes and businesses via satellite dishes and will operate at 20 to 30 GHz. It is billed as “the highest capacity satellite in the world,” and aims 72 spot beams to cover the eastern two thirds of the United States, the west coast, and the Phoenix and Denver areas.

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