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LightSquared GPS argument up for public comment

Mon, 01/30/2012 - 1:17pm
Maisie Ramsay, Wireless Week

The FCC has opened part of LightSquared's embattled wireless plans for public comment.

The agency on Friday decided to accept comments on LightSquared's claim that GPS receiver manufacturers were not entitled to interference protection from its signals as long as LightSquared operated within the FCC's parameters.

LightSquared has been fighting to get the FCC to allow it to move forward with its plans to deploy a hybrid satellite-terrestrial LTE network in spectrum near GPS bands.

LightSquared asked the FCC last month to "resolve the regulatory status" of receivers.

"Commercial GPS receivers are not licensed, do not operate under any service rules, and thus are not entitled to any interference protection whatsoever,'' LightSquared wrote in its December petition.

It argued that GPS manufacturers should be held liable for interference problems because they built receivers which picked up signals from LightSquared's band even though they knew for years that a network was slated to be deployed there.

The claim has been hotly contested by the GPS industry.

The FCC will accept comments on LightSquared's proposal until Feb. 27, with follow-up statements due March 13.

The six-week comment period could give LightSquared time to conduct more tests to prove that its service is compatible with GPS. The company is rumored to be running out of cash, and it is unclear how much longer it can continue fighting to get clearance for its network.

The FCC has said it will not allow LightSquared to move forward with its plans until it resolves problems with GPS interference caused by its base stations.

The ambitious proposal hit a wall after a series of government tests showed LightSquared's network knocked out GPS receivers, especially sensitive devices used to land planes, guide missiles and maneuver precision farm equipment.

LightSquared claims the results were biased and has asked to government to conduct new tests.

Sprint recently put its spectrum hosting deal with LightSquared on hold until the company got the FCC's go-ahead. Despite numerous setbacks, LightSquared continues to sign up customers for its network and now has agreements with more than 30 companies, including Leap Wireless International and Best Buy.

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