Sorry, LightSquared, GPS was there first

In the struggle to balance the needs of a new broadband network with the operation of the existing Global Positioning System, the satellite company will have to accept that GPS has a prior claim on the radio frequency spectrum.

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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