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LightSquared blames their failure to deliver wireless service on GPS industry

Written by Rich Fiscus (Google+) @ 28 Sep 2011 11:54 User comments (3)

LightSquared blames their failure to deliver wireless service on GPS industry Embattled would be wireless provider LightSquared has published an open letter blaming the GPS industry for his company's problems rolling out a nationwide LTE (4G) wireless network in the US.
LightSquared has become a subject of debate among US legislators over their plan to use frequencies normally reserved for satellite communication for mobile phone service. Although they have received FCC approval for their service, it was with the condition that they be able to show it won't interfere with GPS equipment.

LightSquared's wireless service would be a wholesale product sold to regional mobile providers, allowing them to expand their networks to offer nationwide coverage.

The original plan was to use two different frequency ranges. That plan was modified when it was determined one of them would interfere with standard GPS communications which use an adjacent frequency range.

Problems remain with the second range of frequencies due to interference with high precision GPS signals used in industries like aviation and agriculture, as well as by the military.

In his letter, LightSquared CEO Sanjiv Ahuja wrote:

Recently, concerns have been raised about interference with GPS devices. We take these concerns very seriously. Despite the fact that the interference is caused by others' inappropriate use of LightSquared's licensed spectrum, we have been proactive in working toward a solution to the GPS issue. We are making a $150 million private investment in the solution for GPS. We have moved our spectrum farther away from the core GPS frequencies and at the request of the FCC, we set up, funded, and ran the largest and most comprehensive testing program this country has ever seen.


Ahuja's accusation is questionable at best. In reality, the problem isn't that GPS systems are using LightSquared licensed frequencies. In fact, the problem is the power of LightSquared's proposed terrestrial signal combined with existing GPS receivers, which were designed with the assumption only lower power satellite signals would be transmitted on adjacent frequencies.

Until last year the only terrestrial transmissions allowed to operate on those frequencies were used to fill gaps in satellite coverage. Those signals, used for services like satellite radio, don't operate at high enough power to interfere with other transmissions.

That was changed with a presidential mandate to consider using the satellite spectrum for expanding broadband Internet coverage.

By LightSquared's own admission, fixing the problem would require retrofitting the affected high precision GPS receivers to filter out their signal or replacing them entirely. They have offered to cover the cost for the federal government while hinting that others would need to bear the expense on their own.

In recent months the issue has taken on a political life of its own thanks to President Obama's apparent hand in pushing FCC approval forward and the ownership stake in LightSquared by a prominent Democratic Party contributor.

It is also opposed by government officials from the Department Of Defense and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration on purely technical grounds.

Unless LightSquared manages to come up with a solution that would allow the problem to be fixed on their end, rather than requiring wholesale replacement of high precision GPS equipment, their network appears to be dead in the water.

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3 user comments

128.9.2011 21:55

Will someone please give this guy a useful spectrum so he will shut up? ;)

He should be blaming the FCC...they never should have approved of changing the rules for the spectrums in question, and lightspeed wouldn't have wasted billions.



211.10.2011 17:52

This is a ridiculous article ... GPS is looking into frequencies that are neighbouring their spectrum ... power is not the issue. I find it ridiculous that 1) a company that is promising to invest 20B in todays economy is being given so much trouble 2) a Russian company has found a solution to this mess when the GPS industry said it was impossible 3) the wireless industry in the US is so far behind others in the world yet we call ourselves leaders - the problem we are missing competition which LightSquared brings to the table and lastly 4) we have ignorant and mis-informed noise likely generated by Verizon and others trying hard to make sure the American consumer is screwed while they charge outrageous rates in the current Duopoly

323.2.2012 21:26

Originally posted by KillerBug:
Will someone please give this guy a useful spectrum so he will shut up? ;)

He should be blaming the FCC...they never should have approved of changing the rules for the spectrums in question, and lightspeed wouldn't have wasted billions.
I think the issue here is that Lightspeed did not look around when they acquired their spectrum. It's like moving into a new neighborhood, without doing research on the neighborhood itself. They have no one to blame but themselves. It would seem that their attitude is that since they're bringing wireless service into certain areas, that the government would support their efforts. Should the government have problems with their GPS, then of course they will fix it. Everyone else? They're not being considered, so basically they can go pound sand. One can almost sense that Lightspeed would greatly appreciate it if those affected would just upgrade their GPS receivers, and in a "smack to the face" kinda way, indirectly subsidize the business model that Lightspeed obviously failed to fully do research on.
This message has been edited since its posting. Latest edit was made on 23 Feb 2012 @ 21:27

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