Commercial, Embedded Avionics

GPS Group Files Motion in LightSquared Case

By Tish Drake | November 10, 2011
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The Coalition to Save Our GPS has filed a motion with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) on Tuesday to prohibit LighSquared from using the upper 10 Mega Hertz (MHz) mobile satellite spectrum for its wireless broadband network, citing concerns about the potential of GPS service interruption.

LightSquared earlier this year was granted a conditional waiver by the FCC to operate in the upper and lower 10 MHz mobile satellite spectrum bands, provided LightSquared could prove its planned operations would not interrupt GPS signals. But following the work of the FCC-directed Technical Working Group earlier this year, LightSquared revised its plans, asking that the interference issue be considered based only on the use of the lower 10 MHz spectrum. FCC determined additional testing was necessary to assess potential GPS interference in lower 10 MHz spectrum. However, LightSquared has said it may need to use the upper band spectrum, possibly as soon as 2015.

“We are asking the FCC to state definitively what many have been saying. The upper 10 [MHz] is not viable and terrestrial operations should not be there,” said Jim Kirkland, vice president and general counsel at Trimble, of Sunnyvale, Calif.

"The industry has for months tried to argue that the interference issue was an unsolvable physics problem and that LightSquared should never be allowed to deploy at all. The industry’s assertion has been dramatically laid bare by the private marketplace, which has already produced three viable solutions to the high-precision interference problem in the 'lower 10,'" Terry Neal, senior vice president, public relations and communications, at LightSquared, said in a statement. "Yet despite the fact that LightSquared has already spent upward of $160 million on technology mitigating an interference problem that is not of its making, the prosperous GPS manufacturing industry is demanding that it never have to spend any money on innovation that will allow GPS to exist simultaneously with LightSquared ... Today’s filing by the coalition is little more than a land grab designed to reward spectrum squatters who have failed to innovate their technology."

FCC is considering whether to approve plans by LightSquared to bring high-speed wireless Internet access to as many as 260 million people. Opponents of LightSquared’s plans, including many in the aviation industry, say the system may disrupt GPS systems for aircraft, boats, tractors and automobiles.

“There is overwhelming technical evidence that LightSquared’s originally proposed operation on the upper and lower bands will produce harmful ‘overload’ of GPS receivers by the high powered signals being transmitted in immediately adjacent upper-band spectrum,” according to the filing.

In a conference call with reporters Tuesday, coalition members say the upper 10 MHz portion of the spectrum should be taken off the table entirely and agreed with the FCC and others in the call for testing and study of the lower 10 MHz band.

According to LightSquared, operations in the lower spectrum would require some operators to replace or upgrade their GPS receivers. The coalition said this would be expensive and lengthy development, certification and installation process.

For the aviation industry, in particular, coalition members say disruptions to the GPS signal, a cornerstone of the FAA’s Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen), would be devastating to modernizing the National Airspace System, specifically mentioning Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B), Required Navigation Performance (RNP) approaches and Wide Area Augmentation System (WAAS).

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