LightSquared's new 4G stations could cause major GPS interference

Alex Wagner
Editorial Director of News and Content from  Omaha, NE
| Published: February 23, 2011

Garmin GPS

We all love the idea of having crazy fast 4G connections with our phones, but would you be willing to trade the ability to use GPS location to attain those data speeds? That decision may need to be made soon if LightSquared's plan to install new 4G base stations moves forward. LightSquared, a telecom from Virginia, has been using the frequency bands between 1525 to 1559 MHz to communicate with their satellites, which just so happens to be right next to the 1559 to 1610 MHz range that GPS satellites use.

There's been no problems up to now, but LightSquared just got FCC approval to begin building 40,000 4G base stations that will use the same 1525 to 1559 MHz bands, but with a much stronger signal that could interfere with GPS satellite signals, say engineers at Garmin International. The interference could be so bad, according to the engineers, that there could be "widespread, severe GPS jamming" and that it could "deny GPS service over vast areas of the United States." LightSquared has responded by claiming that it's actually the GPS receivers that are causing the interference. The company has until Friday, Feb. 25th to submit a plan for working out the problems, with a final solution due by the middle of June.

While the decision between 4G and accurate GPS may seem like an easy one for some people with all of the drool-worthy 4G handsets coming up, I've got a feeling that a lot of users and apps would be lost without a decent GPS. I'm sure LightSquared is cooking up something to solve this problem, because I doubt they want face all of the anger from users of GPS receivers across the U.S. What do you all make of this situation? Would you rather have speedy 4G data or accurate GPS services?

Via Gizmodo, New Scientist