LightSquared: GPS interference is device-makers' fault

Wholesale 4G satellite broadband company LightSquared, whose proposed network came under fire after tests showed it interfered with Global Positioning System signals, is back on the offensive, asking the Federal Communications Commission to confirm its right to use the spectrum licensed to company by the agency.

In addition, LightSquared, in its petition for a declaratory ruling, wants the FCC to confirm that GPS device-makers have no right to interference protections since they are not licensed users of that spectrum.

“The one inescapable conclusion from two rounds of independent testing is that the incompatibility problem is not caused by LightSquared’s network,” Jeff Carlisle, LightSquared’s executive vice president for regulatory affairs and public policy, said a press statement from the company.

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“Commercial GPS device-makers have had nearly a decade to design and sell devices that do not infringe on LightSquared’s licensed spectrum,” Carlisle said. “They have no right to complain in the eleventh-hour about incompatibility when they had ample opportunity to avoid this problem," he added.

Carlisle said company has “had FCC authorization to build its network for over eight years and that authorization was endorsed by the GPS industry, and fully reviewed and allowed to proceed by several other government agencies.”

GPS applications often use radio channels not originally intended for GPS. They also underlie critical activities, including weather forecasting and air traffic control.

On Dec. 14, the Transportation and Defense departments jointly issued a release stating that testing showed that LightSquared signals “caused harmful interference to the majority of other tested general purpose GPS receivers.” The Federal Aviation Administration also found interference with a flight safety system designed to warn pilots of approaching terrain.

Congress, as part of the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act passed last week, is barring the FCC from approving LightSquared's network for commercial use until the DOD's interference concerns are resolved.

Without resolution, LightSquared could go under. According to a review of the company’s financial statement by Reuters, the company is in danger of running out of money by the second quarter of 2012. LightSquared registered a $427 million net loss during the first nine months of this year.

LightSquared has invested billions of dollars in its proposed network and plans to invest billions more. Its business model is based on selling a wholesale 4G network to be built by Sprint. In July, LightSquared announced a 15-year contract with Sprint whereby LightSquared would pay the mobile phone company, which is having money problems of its own, $9 billion for the job.

About the Author

Kathleen Hickey is a freelance writer for GCN.


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