Caroline Gabriel/Rethink Wireless
22 Sep 2010
Korea's SK Telecom has emerged as the mystery operator that could invest in LightSquared, the US venture set up to build a national LTE wholesale network in mobile satellite spectrum.
Its chief backer, Harbinger Capital Partners, has been looking for investors, and has hinted at one or more operators taking a stake in return for access to the network.
T-Mobile USA has been the most discussed candidate, but SKT has also been aiming to increase its US presence for some years.
If SKT were to take a share in LightSquared, it would indicate a similar model to that of Clearwire, which has Sprint Nextel and three cablecos as stakeholders/MVNOs and has also been reported to be in talks with T-Mobile.
LightSquared has so far raised all its money from financial institutions, but will need more financing to meet its ambitious rollout targets, and has made no secret of its wish to involve operator partners and/or suppliers.
At one time, Huawei was thought to be interested in a stake plus equipment contract, but LightSquared then chose Nokia Siemens to build and run its network (without any investment from NSN).
SKT would take a $100m investment, according to Reuters, and has confirmed its talks with Harbinger, but said “some terms haven't been met yet.” SKT could launch consumer or enterprise LTE services under its own brand via a wholesale deal with LightSquared, and would also gain expertise to use in its own LTE roll-outs in its home market and possibly elsewhere.