Group targets LightSquared over potential GPS interference

Fri, 03/11/2011 - 7:05am
Maisie Ramsay, Wireless Week

A group of 17 major stakeholders in the GPS industry want the FCC and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) to make LightSquared guarantee its planned LTE network won't interfere with GPS systems.

The newly formed Coalition to Save Our GPS believes LightSquared's LTE network could cause "severe interference" to GPS receivers. LightSquared's LTE network will use satellite spectrum immediately adjacent to bandwidth used by GPS systems.

The group wants the FCC and NTIA to make LightSquared's waiver to use its satellite spectrum for land-based LTE services contingent upon the outcome of a recent study mandated by the FCC. The study will examine potential interference problems posed by LightSquared's services and present ways to address GPS interference.

"LightSquared's plans to build up to 40,000 ground stations transmitting radio signals one billion times more powerful than GPS signals as received on Earth could mean 40,000 'dead spots' – each miles in diameter – disrupting the vitally important services GPS provides," the group said.

GPS is critical to many industries, including air travel, public safety and computer systems, where it's often used to synchronize networks.

Initial members of the coalition include the Aeronautical Repair Stations Association, Air Transport Association, Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, American Rental Association, Associated Equipment Distributors, Association of Equipment Manufacturers, Case New Holland, Caterpillar, Edison Electric Institute, Esri, Garmin, General Aviation Manufacturers Association, Deere & Co., National Association of Manufacturers, OmniStar and Trimble.

A representative of one of the founding members of the coalition, Trimble vice president and general counsel Jim Kirkland, will testify on the issue today before the Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice and Science of the House Appropriations Committee.

LightSquared's network plans have also come under scrutiny by several federal agencies, including Homeland Security and the Defense Department. The agencies are concerned that LightSquared's services could interfere with federal communications services such as GPS receivers, maritime and aeronautical emergency communication systems, and Inmarsat receivers.

The FCC decided to let LightSquared use its satellite spectrum for both terrestrial and satellite-based LTE services despite the agencies' concerns, but it mandated the company work with the FCC, NTIA and other government agencies to address potential interference issues.


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