LightSquared has ignited a renewed war of words with the GPS industry by requesting the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) develop standards requiring commercial GPS receivers to be protected against interference from signals in nearby bands.
The filing is the latest effort by LightSquared to salvage its plans to build a terrestrial wireless broadband network using frequency spectrum adjacent to GPS that was originally reserved for mobile satellite communications.
With plans for a $14 billion private investment in the nationwide network jeopardized by tests that shows its powerful transmitters would interfere with millions of GPS receivers, LightSquared is pushing to put the blame – and the cost of overcoming the interference – on to the GPS industry.
LightSquared must satisfy the FCC that the GPS interference issue has been resolved before it can deploy its network, but independent and government tests indicate almost all GPS receivers would require costly modification – a bill LightSquared is desperate to push onto the GPS community.
Because the interference is caused by the sensitive GPS receivers looking into LightSquared’s frequency band, and not because its transmissions are leaking into the GPS band, the company has requested that the FCC develop “receiver standards that take into account licensed users in nearby bands.”
Blaming the interference on “an industry decision to design and sell poorly filtered devices that purposefully depend on spectrum licensed to LightSquared for accuracy,” the company argues “sensible standards” would eliminate interference, enable more efficient use of spectrum and allow it to launch its broadband network.
The company’s “suggestion that GPS manufacturers should have designed receivers to accommodate a prohibited use is simply self-serving nonsense, ”argues the Save Our GPS coalition, pointing out that LightSquared was not authorized by the FCC to provide terrestrial-only service using mobile satellite spectrum until January 2011.
LightSquared counters that the FCC, in an April 2011 order, emphasized that “incumbent users … must use receivers that reasonably discriminate against reception of signals outside their allocated spectrum,” and noted that, in the case of GPS, “extensive terrestrial operations have been anticipated in the L-band for at least eight years.”
The FCC has “made clear that LightSquared would not be permitted to commence operations until it had demonstrated that it would not interfere with GPS,” counters Jim Kirkland, vice president and general counsel of Trimble, a founding member of Save Our GPS. “LightSquared did not challenge this condition at the time, and has to live up to it.”