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LightSquared claims fix to GPS problem

Wed, 09/21/2011 - 8:00am
Maisie Ramsay, Wireless Week

LightSquared claims it has come up with a "simple, affordable" fix to the GPS interference issue that has threatened to derail its plans for a wholesale mobile broadband network.

The solution involves reconfiguring filters and linear amplifiers on GPS receivers to make them "completely compatible" with LightSquared's bottom 10 MHz of spectrum, where it now plans to deploy its network.

"This breakthrough is a final step toward LightSquared's goal of building a nationwide wireless network," LightSquared CEO Sanjiv Ahuja said.

The receivers will have to be installed in all GPS equipment affected by interference from LightSquared's network. The GPS industry and the government have previously expressed concerns that installing such filters – even if they could be successfully developed – would be expensive and time-consuming. LightSquared says the cost of the additional hardware won't make devices more expensive for consumers.

The system was developed by high-precision GPS receiver manufacturer Javad GNSS. It can be adapted for sensitive receivers already in the market, including those used in the agriculture, construction and defense industries.

Prototypes have already been made and tested. Twenty-five of the units are expected to be available within two weeks.

LightSquared will release the preproduction units for public tests next month, and high-precision receivers for positioning are slated to hit the market in November, followed by receivers for precision timing devices in March of next year.

The FCC has vowed to block LightSquared from advancing its plans until it resolves problems with GPS interference.

LightSquared's first plan called for deploying in spectrum directly adjacent to GPS bands. That plan was scrapped after tests showed it caused widespread blackouts in GPS service.

The company has since made multiple revisions to its deployment strategy, prompting the government to call for more testing before the network moves ahead.

The FCC's conditional waiver for the network has come under increased scrutiny of late, with watchdog groups questioning ties between LightSquared and the Obama administration. The FCC has denied doing anything unusual in its granting of the waiver.

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