Sorry, LightSquared, GPS was there first

LightSquared is caught between a rock and a hard place. The mobile satellite communications company has received conditional approval from the Federal Communications Commission to build a nationwide 4G wireless network, provided it can be done without interfering with adjacent signals from the Global Positioning System.

Related coverage:

Proposed 4G network threatens vital GPS services, Congress told

The company has invested billions of dollars in its proposed network and is planning to invest billions more. It has testified before congressional committees and in full-page newspaper ads that it has played by the rules, but government and industry officials say the proposed network would interfere with GPS applications.

It appears true that LightSquared equipment is not at fault and that GPS applications often use radio channels not originally intended for GPS. But it also is true that GPS was there first and that many GPS applications underlie critical activities, including weather forecasting and air traffic control.

LightSquared has proposed fixes to its plan that might help the situation, and nobody wants to stop the company from building a wireless network. But more testing is needed to see whether the proposed fix will work before any decision should be made about allowing the new network to go forward.

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William Jackson is a Maryland-based freelance writer.

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Reader Comments

Tue, Jan 3, 2012 Frakking Upset

The entire problem is that L2 has attempted to misuse a spectrum they LEASED. As anyone knows, if you fail to observe terms of the lease agreement, you can be evicted. this should never have been allowed to happen and the blame rests upon political appointees that attempt to further the agenda of their benefactor. L2 should NEVER have been allowed to enter into "deals" for use of the spectrum until ALL approvals had been received. The cries of lost investments is merely a form of economic blackmail and an attemtp to secure a bail out from the Federal Government based upon its poor handling of the situation. I really think SOMEONE needs to check the water and air in D.C. for whatever is causing the severe cases of stupidity that are prevalent recently

Mon, Oct 10, 2011 Ted

Some clarifications 1) Lightsquared didn't buy the spectrum - the united states doesn't sell spectrum - they leased it. 2) The terms of the lease are that new users need to be non-interfering with with users in adjacent spectrum at the system level 3) GPS, while originally conceived (and still operated) as a military system with best effort quality of service, has become critical infrastructure for many, many different types of users - military, civil, and private, to include the finance industry. If GPS (operationally) gets stepped on by another user, then ubiquitous time distribution in the united states will break, and the consequences will be large and diverse (time = position, always has, always will). Somewhere along the way, all of the network time servers either sync to GPS, or sync to another atomic clock authority. At this point, losing GPS would be very, very bad - fixing all of the deployed GPS receivers (if this were even possible) would cost much more than L**2 has invested, or will invest.

Mon, Oct 3, 2011 Joseph_S Appleton

Lightsquared should be allowed to use the band they bought, on satellites. They want a terrestial network? Buy terrestial frequencies. I'll blame GPS when Lightsquared is transmitting 15kW from 12000 miles up. For reference, GPS signals are transmitted at 50w (not a typo) from 12000 miles up. Mind you that by the time a GPS signal hits your GPS it's now at 0.00000000000000008w.

Mon, Oct 3, 2011 BackwardsBoy

This is a technical boondoggle that should never have been proposed. The idea itself is great, but not at the cost of interfering with the GPS system, which is the foundation for future upgrades. This is a yet another horrible idea from this administration, as it has very real public and military implications, none of them good. End it now.

Mon, Oct 3, 2011 Jay NJ

Lightsquared is trying to change the rules, from satellite delivery to a terrestrial delivery model. FCC said sure, if you can show that it will not be a problem. Well it is a problems so Lightsquared should deploy a satellite based network, what their band was designated for from the FCC.

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