LightSquared backer seeks US$ 1.9 billion damages

By Helen Wright13 August 2013

LightSquared logo

LightSquared logo

Harbinger Capital, a private equity company that invested in US-based wireless network developer LightSquared, has filed a lawsuit seeking US$ 1.9 billion in damages against companies that opposed LightSquared’s plans.

The defendants include Deere & Co, which owns the John Deere equipment brand, as well as technology companies Trimble and Garmin; the US GPS Industry Council and the Coalition to Save Our GPS.

These organisations were against LightSquared’s proposed satellite and ground-based 4G network because they feared that it could drown out current GPS signals used in construction applications, as well as in military and aviation applications.

LightSquared entered voluntary bankruptcy proceedings in the US last summer, claiming it needed time to resolve the regulatory issues that were preventing it from building the network.

In the complaint, which was filed in the US District Court in Manhattan, Harbinger claims the defendants knowingly built devices that would interfere with signals from its planned network.

According to the lawsuit, the US Federal Communications Commissionn (FCC) authorised the necessary electromagnetic spectrum for the LightSquared network in 2003, 2004 and 2005, and reaffirmed this in 2010.

Harbinger claims it tried to resolve any interference issues caused by its use of the spectrum. But in 2011 and 2012, it alleges that the defendants designed their own navigation devices deliberately to use the same spectrum, then claimed the devices would malfunction if LightSquared’s network went live.

Jim Kirkland, vice president and general counsel at Trimble, said, "The Harbinger lawsuit is an attempt to avoid responsibility for the consequences of LightSquared’s plan to build a high-powered mobile network in spectrum adjacent to GPS, despite prior FCC restrictions.

"More than a year of intensive study, involving government as well as private GPS users, determined that LightSquared’s proposed network would have interfered with millions of GPS devices used for a wide variety of critical purposes.

"Government agencies that objected to interference included the Federal Aviation Administration, due to risks to aviation safety, and the Department of Defense.

"This interference resulted from the characteristics of LightSquared’s new plan for use of satellite spectrum, not the design of GPS devices. The responsibility for Harbinger's losses rests squarely with Harbinger. The lawsuit is lacking in merit and we will vigorously defend it.”

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