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LightSquared: GPS interference tests 'rigged'

Wed, 01/18/2012 - 1:38pm
Maisie Ramsay, Wireless Week

LightSquared said today that GPS industry insiders "rigged" tests that found its planned LTE network interfered with GPS receivers so badly that there was no practical way to fix the problem.

"We believe the testing was rigged to make sure that most receivers would fail," LightSquared top lobbyist Jeff Carlisle said in a call with reporters this morning. "The conduct of the testing can only be described as a fiasco."

LightSquared will not be allowed to move forward with its plans to build a wholesale mobile broadband network in satellite spectrum until it can prove the service won't knock out GPS.

A federal committee said last week that LightSquared's network would be problematic, even if it moved to a band farther away from GPS spectrum, and recommended further tests be halted.

LightSquared claims that officials in charge of the most recent round of testing allowed GPS manufacturers to cherry pick outdated devices that would be particularly susceptible to interference.

The receiver manufacturers then signed non-disclosure agreements with the government to prevent "any input from independent groups," Carlisle said. The company said it had to make repeated requests to obtain a list of devices used in the testing, which it is required to keep private.

Agencies in charge of the testing could not be immediately reached for comment on LightSquared's allegations, and an FCC spokeswoman said the agency was waiting for recommendations from NTIA.

"As we have said from the outset, the FCC will not lift the prohibition on LightSquared to begin commercial operations unless harmful interference issues are resolved," she said.

LightSquared also claimed the tests used a "very conservative" threshold to define failure – just one decibel above the noise floor – and didn't report on whether that limit actually affected the accuracy of GPS.

LightSquared says independent tests prove that its network is compatible with GPS, claims that have been repeatedly refuted by the government's findings. The GPS industry says those tests have been skewed in favor of LightSquared and wants the government to block the company from moving forward with its launch plans.

When asked whether LightSquared would sue the government to get clearance for its network, Carlisle said, "We will move forward to defend our legal rights," but he stopped short of saying the company had immediate plans to file a complaint.

The company has called on the FCC and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) to conduct a second round of tests on high-precision devices at an independent laboratory "to ensure objectivity and transparency."

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