Federal regulators have given a satellite start-up called LightSquared clearance to use its allotted airwaves to provide wireless broadband services that could compete with AT&T and Verizon Wireless.

The Federal Communications Commission is granting the Reston, Va., company a waiver from federal rules limiting the use of those airwaves to providing back-up wireless connections for satellite phone service. Without the waiver, LightSquared’s network could only be used to provide ground-based broadband service if it can also connect to a satellite.

LightSquared, launched in July by private-equity firm Harbinger Capital Partners, has the spectrum because Harbinger already owns satellite company SkyTerra.

“LightSquared is pleased with the Federal Communication Commission’s grant of its request to allow its wholesale customers to provide either dual-mode or terrestrial-only devices as part of an integrated satellite-terrestrial broadband service,” the company said in a statement.

“LightSquared’s network will provide a robust, open-access network that will permit reliable and affordable service to customers across the country in every market segment. The FCC’s grant of this application is an essential building block for our network as we build out to meet the rigorous construction timetable that the Commission has made a condition of our authorization and reaffirmed in today’s grant of our request.”

LightSquared is building a nationwide data network that can handle voice calls, but won’t offer conventional cell phone service. The company also offers slower mobile satellite services.

“Having an extra player in the mobile broadband field increases competition and provides consumers with more choices,” the FCC said in a statement.

LightSquared plans to sell its wireless broadband service on a wholesale basis to retailers, mobile device makers, Web content developers and even cable companies. They would then resell the service to consumers under their own brands. It’s a 4G network, the super-fast variety that existing phone companies such as AT&T and Verizon are building.

LightSquared has pledged to reach 260 million users by 2015 to satisfy a requirement imposed by the FCC when it approved Harbinger’s purchase of SkyTerra last year.

“We’re very much looking forward to offering broadband services to all Americans,” said Jeffrey Carlisle, LightSquared’s executive vice president of regulatory affairs.

The FCC said it will require LightSquared to ensure that its new broadband service does not interfere with global positioning systems. Earlier this month, the Commerce Department warned that the service could create interference problems for GPS receivers, consumer navigation devices and satellite services used by government agencies.

“To assure that its rollout of full commercial service will satisfy the concerns about the possibility of inadvertent harmful interference to certain GPS devices, LightSquared pledges a diligent effort to work with all interested parties in an open and comprehensive process to address those concerns,” the company said.

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