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Tue, Sep 21, 2010 - Page 10 News List

SK Telecom may invest in Falcone’s wireless venture

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SK Telecom Co, South Korea’s largest mobile phone operator, may invest as much as US$100 million in a US wireless broadband network backed by billionaire Philip Falcone’s Harbinger Capital Partners.

SK Telecom’s board approved the plan in May to invest in LightSquared venture, said Lauren Kim, a company spokeswoman, confirming an earlier report by Edaily today.

A formal agreement is yet to be signed because certain conditions weren’t met, Kim said by telephone yesterday. She declined to elaborate.

The Seoul-based telecom operator said in October last year it was seeking to expand abroad by targeting finance, education and healthcare companies to offer its services. LightSquared is building its network to as many as nine US metro areas by the end of next year to sell capacity on its 4G network to technology companies.

LightSquared, based in Reston, Virginia, was formed through Falcone’s acquisition of SkyTerra Communications Inc. It plans to compete with Sprint Nextel Corp, AT&T Inc and Verizon Wireless to win customers.

The venture said it would begin trials in Baltimore, Phoenix, Las Vegas and Denver by early next year. LightSquared is committed to US$7 billion spending over eight years through an agreement with Nokia Siemens Networks to build and manage the network. In July the venture said it had obtained US$1.75 billion in initial funding commitments.

LightSquared CEO Sanjiv Ahuja said last month he was in advanced talks with 10 potential customers or partners.

The company ended a three-year investment tie-up with China Unicom (Hong Kong) Ltd in September last year after the Chinese wireless operator deepened its partnership with Spain’s Telefonica SA.

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