LightSquared GPS Controversy Continues
Interference tests show problems; company offers deal to FCC
December 15, 2011 – In the face of continuing criticism from Congress and GPS users over a proposed plan for a nationwide broadband network, LightSquared has offered the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) a deal to relinquish part of its proposed spectrum in exchange for unfettered access to the remaining section.
The deal offer comes as Bloomberg News reports that early testing showed that the LightSquared network would interfere with as much as 75 percent of all GPS receivers in the U.S. That information comes from a draft report by the National Coordination Office for Space-Based Positioning, Navigation, and Timing, which performed the testing at the request of an office within the U.S. Commerce Department.
LightSquared has refuted the claim and asked for an investigation into the leaked information, which it called “part of the multi-million dollar public relations/lobbying campaign being coordinated by GPS manufacturers.”
The LightSquared proposal would create up to 40,000 ground-based transmitters of as much as 1,500 watts each. The frequencies used in the plan are adjacent to those used by GPS units for aviation, emergency services, military, agricultural, and other widespread applications, and fears emerged that interference from the higher-powered LightSquared transmitters would interfere with those public and private uses. EAA is member of the Save Our GPS Coalition, a multi-industry group concerned about interference to current GPS signals.
Members of Congress have also threatened to hold approval of FCC nominees until more information on FCC’s fast-tracking of the LightSquared proposal is available. At the same time, last week the Security and Exchange Commission sent a Wells Notice to Harbinger Capital Partners, a major investor in the LightSquared plan. The SEC typically sends a Wells Notice when it is considering an enforcement action against an individual or company.
“The LightSquared issue involves some pretty complicated science surrounding frequency spectrum management and the influence of billions of dollars of potential future revenue for LightSquared and its investors, pitted against billions of dollars already invested in GPS technology for which there is no alternative,” said Doug Macnair, EAA’s vice president of government relations. “The simple reason EAA is involved is that GPS has become an essential part of aviation safety and a cornerstone of FAA’s NextGen system that will reshape air traffic systems. We simply cannot afford to have that safety compromised.”