'Life or Death' GPS interference issue only affects 200k devices, says LightSquared

LightSquared, the Virginia-based company building a wholesale LTE/Satellite mobile broadband network, submitted to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) its three-part solution for resolving GPS interference issues revealed in recent tests by the National Space-Based Positioning, Navigation, and Timing Systems Engineering Forum (NPEF). The company hopes to settle these issues with GPS companies and the FCC so it may move on with the construction of its $7 Billion wireless network.

The problem is that LightSquared's proposed 40,000 base station cellular network will utilize the same radio frequency to communicate with end user devices that satellites use. Naturally, a satellite orbiting thousands of miles above the earth is going to emit a weaker signal to receivers on the ground than a base station just a couple of miles away. According to the Coalition to Save Our GPS, LightSquared's signal could be more than a billion times more powerful than a satellite's.

The coalition feels this is grounds for the FCC to repeal the waiver it granted LightSquared to use the spectrum back in January.

"It doesn't get much more serious than when ambulances, police and fire department vehicles miss critically important information or lose precious time in reaching the scene of an accident or crime because of interference with GPS signals," said Jim Kirkland, vice president and general counsel of Trimble this week. "It could literally become a matter of life and death, and the government should take every step possible to avoid that scenario."

On Thursday, the US Global Positioning System Industry Council (USGIC) said there are no "satisfactory fixes" to the interference issue that will work across all the different GPS receiver types: agriculture, survey, construction, machine control, mining, Geographic Information Systems (GIS), structural deformation monitoring, or science.

Andrew Etkind, Vice President and General Counsel of Garmin International, said, "Today's report demonstrates that the only practical way of protecting general location and navigation receivers is to move LightSquared to another part of the spectrum."

LightSquared repeated its belief that GPS device manufacturers don't want to work together to find that "satisfactory fix."

"This is a problem that the GPS industry could have avoided by equipping their devices over the last several years with filters that cost as little as five cents each," a statement from LightSquared said today. "It is unthinkable that a nation which recently completed a complex digital-television transition involving nearly every household in the U.S. will be stymied by a problem posed by approximately 200,000 GPS devices."

LightSquared cannot launch unless the FCC and NTIA are satisfied that all reasonable interference concerns have been addressed.

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