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Wholesale Disruption - Our Q&A With Light Squared

Wholesale Disruption - Our Q&A With Light Squared

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Published by: PipelinePublishing on Nov 17, 2011
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© 2011, All informaon contained herein is the sole property of Pipeline Publishing, LLC. Pipeline Publishing LLC reserves all rights and privileges regarding the use of this informaon. Anyunauthorized use, such as distribung, copying, modifying, or reprinng, is not permied. This document is not intended for reproducon or distribuon outside of 
.To obtain permission to reproduce or distribute this document contact
 for informaon about Reprint Services.
Wholesale Disruption -Our Q&A With LightSquared
Pipeline’s Interview with Frank Boulben, CMO atLightSquaredThis issue of Pipeline is all about the impact thatend-user demand places on the network. However,is it possible for a network to have just as drasticeffect on the end-user? That is to say, can an entirelynew way of looking at networks and service providersfundamentally change the face of wireless service inone of the highest-ARPU markets in the world?LightSquared is betting that it can. The wholesalenetwork operator is in the process of rolling out itsnetwork in the United States, and we spoke withFrank Boulben, LightSquared’s CMO, about thestate of the company and his hopes for its future.With a background that includes time at Vodafoneand Orange, Boulben knows a thing or two about traditional wireless carriers, and he seems assured that LightSquared is a whole new ball of wax.
Pipeline: LightSquared positions itsel as the frst trulyopen, wholesale-only network: What does that mean,and what is the signifcance o that business model?LightSquared’s Frank Boulben:
Unlike all wirelesscarriers in the world, we won’t be investing in creating a brand, maintaining retail stores, building callcenters, subsidizing devices, etc. What represents, traditionally, half of the value chain of a wirelesscarrier, we are not going to do. We are going toconcentrate on doing one thing well, which isoperating a 4G LTE network. The capacity from thatnetwork will be sold on a wholesale-only basis to avariety of customers. Those customers will be existing wireless carriers, and we’ve already signed several of  them, which either haven’t got 4G spectrum at all, orhaven’t got it nationwide, or haven’t got enough of it.So that’s our rst category of customers. We’ll alsobe selling to a wide variety of companies interested inoffering wireless services to the end user. These couldbe wireline companies, they could be cable operators,and they could be retailers. We just announced a dealwith Best Buy a few months ago. They could evenbe device manufacturers, web players, or consumerelectronics players. So any company wanting to sellconnectivity to an end user, or any company looking  to embed connectivity into a device, like Amazon doeswith its Kindle, can buy wireless capacity from us.They can do so at single-digit-dollar-per-gigabyte rateswith volume discounts. Its commodity pricing.
Volume 8, Issue 3
 
© 2011, All informaon contained herein is the sole property of Pipeline Publishing, LLC. Pipeline Publishing LLC reserves all rights and privileges regarding the use of this informaon. Anyunauthorized use, such as distribung, copying, modifying, or reprinng, is not permied. This document is not intended for reproducon or distribuon outside of 
www.pipelinepub.com
.To obtain permission to reproduce or distribute this document contact
sales@pipelinepub.com
for informaon about Reprint Services.
your wholesale customer to be too successful or else they begin to threaten your customer base. In ourcase, we are successful only if our customers, likeBest Buy, are successful. Our fate is aligned with thatof our customers.In addition, our network is completely open. If ourcustomers want to offer VoIP, P2P, video streaming…,we still charge them only for the amount of data theyused on the network. netTALK, for example, wanted to replicate in wireless what they are doing in wireline,and we were the only carrier they found that offeredsuch a wholesale proposition.
Pipeline: It sounds like a compelling businessproposition or your customers, but what was themotivation or creating LightSquared as a companythat operates in a purely wholesale capacity, and are you concerned in any way that there could be a lowerearning potential than a comparable retail carriermight possess?Boulben:
We saw a situation in the United Statesin which the demand for mobile data was growing exponentially. In the next 5-7 years, wireless data trafc in the US will increase fty- fold. That growthin data trafc is generated by the penetration of smartphones and tablets, and by the increased usageenabled by 4G (greater speed and reduced latency).What is of particular concern in the US is that thereisn’t enough spectrum to satisfy this exponentiallygrowing demand. The FCC is talking about a shortageof 500 MHz spectrum. All of the carriers say that,in the midterm, they don’t have enough spectrum to satisfy such growing demand. We are going toimplement additional capacity with our 59 MHz of spectrum. But why sell wholesale? First of all, thewholesale market in the US is underdeveloped. Whenyou look at the wholesale market around the world,you see many more successful MVNOs than in theUS. You see companies like Tesco in the UK or ALDIin Germany, who are very successful retailers whichhave become MVNOs. The cable operators in the UKor the Netherlands are also successful MVNOs. Dell isan MVNO in Japan. So we realized the US wholesalemarket was underdeveloped. On the revenue side,prices and levels of protability are extremely high.If you combine the two—no wholesale market and aprice umbrella—there is real opportunity in the USwholesale market. There are plenty of players looking  to get into the wireless market who could serve theend user in a much more efcient manner thanexisting wireless carriers. If you go to an Apple store,you can get everything: the device, the training, andyou can pay for services using your iTunes account.The only thing you can’t get is connectivity. Devicemanufacturers like Apple would like to be able to offeran end-to-end customer experience. We could enable them to provide that.So it’s a great opportunity for us in terms of returnon investment. Being a retail operator is much moreexpensive. You have to establish a brand, buildstores, and subsidize devices. You have to look atyour acquisition cost and your churn rates. We don’thave to worry about these things. If you look at ourbusiness model, it’s much more similar to a towercompany than to a traditional wireless carrier.
Pipeline: How large is LightSquared’s network?Boulben:
Well, our network is not deployed yet[laughs]. We are in the early phases of deployment,but our network will eventually cover 260 millionPOPs, minimum, by 2015 to meet our FCCrequirements, though we intend to go beyond that.We are crafting our network so it will have the bestquality of service in urban areas, with excellentindoor penetration. We are building more towers than we need to deliver that. Our network will alsointegrate satellite coverage. We launched our rstsatellite last November. That means we’ll be able to offer coverage in 100% of the US territory, coast to coast. If you’re in the middle of Yellowstone, andhave no access to network coverage, you can switch to satellite mode and make a phone call or send a text or an e-mail. And you’ll be able to do that with adevice that is no different from a regular cell phone.That’s due to our partnership with Qualcomm, whichintegrated the satellite protocol onto its 4G chipset,and also because the satellite we launched has the largest reector of any commercial satellite, soyou don’t need a special antenna on your device to
If our customers want to offerVoIP, P2P, video streaming…we would still charge themonly for the amount of datathey used on the network.

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