LightSquared Must Survive

Enough already with the crappy and negative stories about Phil Falcone, Sanjiv Ahuja, LightSquared and the whole GPS problem. This is a company and a technology and a solution that we need. It is designed to fix the growing wireless data problem many of us are already experiencing.

So why isn’t LightSquared leading with PR messaging about how it will transform and improve the industry and the service? Instead it is simply reacting to negative GPS stories. It is not driving — it is a passenger. This is a mistake that could be very costly to the company if it’s not corrected soon, as I’ll explain.

My Pick of the Week topic is the huge Google and Motorola merger announced earlier this week.

Big Picture

I must confess I am as guilty as everyone else. I started last year writing about the new LightSquared and talking about the great idea it was. There were challenges, of course, but it was a brand new company and an exciting new idea.

We all hear the horror stories about the quality of an AT&T wireless data call. We know it is only going to get worse, and we need a solution. So this new company makes sense — so far.

When we learned about the impact of LightSquared’s technology on GPS, I thought the company should put on the brakes until the problem was solved.

Now, though, it appears there is an inordinate amount of negative press surrounding this GPS problem, creating an environment that makes it difficult for a new company to succeed.

LightSquared is now spending its time fighting the negative stories instead of leading with its messaging of how it can help the industry. It lost control of the public relations process.

However, if we pull the camera back, it becomes apparent that this issue is larger than one company. This is about the entire industry. It’s about every customer.

Think about the capacity problem AT&T has been wrestling with for years. Think about this being the reason it wants to merge with T-Mobile. It needs more spectrum and capacity.

LightSquared is a brand new company. A brand new idea. If it works, it will solve a growing industry problem.

Instead of attacking it, we should be supportive. Now is the time we should roll up our sleeves and help it solve the interference problem with GPS.

Then let the company jump into the marketplace, and let’s see what it can do to help the industry.

Turn the Boat Around

Why LightSquared doesn’t focus on this positive aspect in its public relations I don’t understand. It is reacting, not leading. Right now, it is being dragged, kicking and screaming, through the mud.

The battle with GPS is not the story. It is just a pothole in the road to LightSquared’s success. However, it is making a big public relations mistake by allowing itself to be defined by that issue.

By the time it solves this problem, its image in the marketplace will be severely damaged. It is already going in that direction. The time to act is now.

So, to founder Phil Falcone and CEO Sanjiv Ahuja, let me say this: It’s time to turn your approach around. It’s time to start thinking and talking like the winning new company you say you are. It’s time to lead and not follow in the PR battle. What you do next will decide whether you turn it around or not. You decide.

It’s time to turn up the positive heat on your PR and marketing and let the world know about the incredible and positive solution you are creating to solve our growing capacity problem.

Welcome criticism. Welcome ideas from the industry to solve the problem. Don’t fight it. Use it. Turn the noisy marketplace into your partner, not your adversary. Get everyone on your side.

The solution is that simple and that complex.

Currently you are being played — positioned as the bad guys. The cowboy dressed in black.

The media is happy to continue to portray you that way because there is an absence of anything good to write about. That’s your job. Knock, knock… anybody in there?

LightSquared at the End of the Tunnel

The truth is, Philip Falcone saw this brewing capacity problem years ago and has been thinking about and working on a solution for a long time. He is a real visionary in the industry, and he is not even from the industry. That’s the amazing story that should be told. Sometimes the best ideas for solutions come from outside.

Falcone never had to worry about PR before. He comes from the hedge fund business. That lack of public relations understanding is hurting him.

The industry continues to go down the same old, tired path, with no solutions as the capacity problem grows. All companies want to do is continue merging to get their hands on more spectrum. LightSquared has a new idea.

Further merging, like what AT&T is doing with T-Mobile, may be a mistake. We are now at the point where major mergers in this space could be anticompetitive and have a negative impact.

This spectrum problem will continue to worsen. We need a solution without more mergers.

Rather than continuing to push back against the LightSquared plan, we should all be trying to figure out how to make it work. Come up with solutions so it can get started in the marketplace solving this capacity problem.

LightSquared is not a threat. So why is it positioned as almost evil? That’s because the GPS industry positioned it this way and the media didn’t have anything else to go by.

That wrong image is what it has to fix, and quickly. This negative opinion of LightSquared in the marketplace will mean the company is worth less. That means when the time comes for it to have an IPO, it will be lower than it could be.

So let’s keep our eye on the ball. Remember the growing problem in the industry that we cannot ignore.

We are only in the early innings of this new smartphone revolution. We watch as Google and Apple transform the space. As more users buy smartphones, and as more people use wireless data services, this capacity problem intensifies.

So the industry needs a solution. Come on LightSquared, it’s time to step up and turn your public relations around. It’s time for you to lead. Be positive.

It’s time to stop following and reacting. It’s your job to talk to the industry about the positive side — about the solution you want to offer.

Turn it around before it’s too late. Get the world on your side.

LightSquared has to happen. We need the solution the company wants to offer. And if LightSquared is successful, others will follow.

If we don’t help it become a real competitor and solve this growing wireless data capacity problem, I am afraid we will be sorry. Jeff Kagan's Pick of the Week

My Pick of the Week is the deal Google and Motorola Mobility announced earlier this week.

I must have gotten dozens of calls from reporters looking for comments on this story. The reason is these non-cellular companies, Google and Apple, are suddenly transforming the wireless industry.

Four years ago, everything was calm in the wireless industry. Then Apple and Google jumped in, and the industry hasn’t been the same ever since.

The industry has completely transformed itself in the last four years, and I think this is just the first inning. Buckle up, because this is going to be fun and exciting to watch.

I will write extensively about this in coming months, but for now let me say congratulations to both Google and Motorola. Great move!

Jeff Kagan

Jeff Kagan is an E-Commerce Times columnist and tech analyst following wireless, telecom, healthcare and technology. He is also an author, speaker and consultant. Email him at [email protected]. Read the first chapters of his new bookLife After Stroke, now available at and Barnes & Noble.

1 Comment

  • Lightsquared has consistently lied in their press releases and filings. They showed during testing that they did not have the technical expertise to do what they were proposing. They really have no idea what their system will do to commerce in the US. It is their responsibility, by federal regulation, to insure that they do not interfere. GPS is THE most successful technology the FCC has been involved with. Lightsquare needs to go back and do their technical homework. Just because someone says "it would be a good idea to…" does not mean it can be done. Nor does it say that something which has many times over the value to mankind than what you are thinking about should be destroyed to do what you "think".

    I really don’t care whether LightSquared survives or not. They have done nothing to date to deserve survival. As to whether they do in the future is up to them, as determined by their actions.

    The FCC has an opportunity to do the right thing here. It also has an opportunity to do grave damage to the reputation of a commission which is supposed to serve the public interest.

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