Ina Fried

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Aspiring Wholesale Network Provider Lightsquared Signs Deal With Best Buy

Lightsquared, a start-up that aims to build a vast nationwide 4G network to sell to other service providers, said on Wednesday that it had reached a deal with retailer Best Buy, which will use its network to expand its Best Buy Connect service.

Speaking at the CTIA 2011 show in Orlando, Lightsquared CEO Sanjiv Ahuja said that the two companies will begin trials of the service in the first quarter of next year and that more details of the deal will be made public soon.

Earlier this week, Lightsquared announced a roaming deal with Leap Wireless that will allow customers of that company’s Cricket service to eventually roam onto Lightsquared’s LTE network.

Although innovative, the notion of building out a network and acting as a wholesale provider has proved troublesome in the past. Most recently, Clearwire has struggled with the cost of building and operating its WiMax-based 4G network.

Ahuja drew a distinction, though, noting that while Clearwire also sells service direct to consumers, Lightsquared is pursuing a wholesale-only approach.

“We will never compete with our customers for end users,” he promised.

Among the company’s potential partners, he said, are retailers, other wireless providers and even laptop makers looking to have a more ongoing connection with their customers.

In a speech big on vision and short on details, Ahuja talked about the vast potential of his company to revolutionize the wireless industry and ease the looming spectrum crunch. He also pledged that the company will spend $14 billion in network infrastructure and operations costs over the next 8 years as it builds and operates its network.

“Ladies and gentleman, stay tuned,” Ahuja said. “In the coming days months and weeks you will be hearing a lot more from us.”


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