Philip Falcone thought he’d found a great deal. A chunk of radio spectrum allocated for mobile satellite communications was for sale, and it was going to be cheap. The reason: The Federal Communications Commission said that it could only be used to communicate between terrestrial devices and the satellite–kind of like Inmarsat does with its satellite phones.
But Falcone had another idea–why not use that spectrum to deliver a wholesale data service to provide LTE services to companies that compete with the big guys, in this case Verizon (NYSE: VZ) Wireless and AT&T (NYSE: T)? The problem was that to do this, the spectrum he bought would have to be used by terrestrial transmitters, and a lot of them–as many as 40,000.
I don’t know if it occurred to Falcone that the frequencies were immediately adjacent to the spectrum used by GPS, and that a high-powered transmitter using nearby frequencies would almost certainly overload the extremely sensitive receivers used by GPS-enabled devices. After all, Falcone is no engineer–he’s a hedge fund manager running Harbinger Capital Partners. But Falcone, a former professional hockey player, is known more for doing anything to get his way than for figuring out how things should work.