A Business Model for Licensed Wi-Fi Spectrum? Globalstar Thinks There is One

Is there a business model for repurposed satellite spectrum that was purchased by a firm that entered bankruptcy? Globalstar aims to find out, and has asked the Federal Communications Commission for permission to repurpose its mobile satellite spectrum for Wi-Fi.

The twist is that Globalstar wants to create a capability for private Wi-Fi services it could monetize, such as supporting the Amazon “Whispernet” delivery of Kindle content.

Amazon presently uses the AT&T mobile network for such purposes, and Amazon probably rightly assumes it could save money if there were an alternative supplier eager to create such a network for a single enterprise customer.

By using a privately-managed network, Amazon presumably would gain more control over quality of service, for example.

That would seem to be the thinking behind Globalstar’s interest in terrestrial “low-power” service (TLPS), an air interface it could use to support such a private Wi-Fi network.

Precisely what “low power” means is a question, since a terrestrial network would still have to be built.

Globalstar argues that the typically lightly-used or unused adjacent unlicensed spectrum would mean a new TLPS network could be created using existing mobile cell tower sites, far outstripping the actual “low power” coverage area of standard Wi-Fi.

Specifically,  Globalstar wants to use its former satellite spectrum to support “low-power” Internet access services using its licensed spectrum at 2483.5-2495 MHz, as well as adjacent unlicensed spectrum (which can be used for Bluetooth or Wi-Fi) in the 2473-2483.5 MHz band, pursuant to the applicable technical rules for unlicensed operations in that band.

To put it mildly, nobody ever has using licensed spectrum for Wi-Fi services.

Separately, Globalstar has asked for permission to build a Long Term Evolution network in both the S band (2483.5-2495 MHz) and L band (1610-1617.775 MHz) “over the longer term.”

As part of the proposal, Globalstar says it will provide 20,000 free access points to public and non-profit schools, community colleges and hospitals in the United States.

Globalstar also says it will provide mobile satellite services free of charge to customers in federally declared disaster areas following natural or man-made disasters for the duration of the disaster.

Presumably the backhaul network would use Globalstar’s satellite capacity, and the ground stations might be co-located with existing mobile tower networks.
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