Is LightSquared the “fat pipe” future for telecom operators? And a future wholesale partner for internet-based voice players?
It is generally agreed that there are two directions for operators in a future filled with free internet-based voice, video and texting services – the “smart telco” and the “bit-pipe provider.”
Most operators want to be the “smart telco,” maintaining prestige, control and innovation. But LightSquared – with its history as a satellite-based communications firm – in the US is showing the innovative – and controversial – edge of the “bit-pipe” model.
LightSquared – with close cooperation from Sprint – wants to build a nationwide, wholesale 4G network to compete with Verizon and AT&T based on spectrum previously reserved for satellite phones (this is where both serious technical and political controversy come in), but it doesn’t plan to run it.
If LightSquared ever builds its network, it will be a “white label” provider of network capacity. So far it has signed up a wide array of partners, from big ones with Sprint and Best Buy to small ones serving small businesses and rural consumers, plus chip and device deals with Qualcomm and Sharp.
But what about the over-the-top (OTT) angle? Could an OTT player, say, Skype, buy capacity from LightSquared for its own network to expand its functionality and free itself from traditional operators?
In fact, it’s already happened, with the LightSquared deal with VoIP provider NetTALK.
Is that the real future for LightSquared? Could they go with a mobile VoIP company next? And can this model be replicated?