Federal agency finds that LightSquared's LTE network would cause GPS interference

Alex Wagner
Editorial Director of News and Content from Omaha, NE
Published: January 14, 2012

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LightSquared's been running into some issues with its plans to build out a 4G LTE network that's integrated with satellite spectrum for some time now, as there are concerns that it could cause interference with GPS systems. Recently LightSquared hit perhaps its biggest stumbling block yet, as a group of nine federal agencies known as the National Space-Based Positioning, Navigation and Timing Executive Committee have unanimously decided that both the company's original and revised plans for its LTE network would interfere with many GPS receivers. The group added that it believes that there aren't any practical solutions that'd allow LightSquared to operate its network without GPS interference any time in the next few years, so as of now it's not planning to do any additional testing on LightSquared's network.

In a press release issued as a response to the group's findings, LightSquared is asking that the FCC and NTIA retest its network plans. The company claims that the agencies involved in the aforementioned tests "demonstrated bias and inappropriate collusion with the private sector." LightSquared explains that a member of the National Space-Based Positioning, Navigation and Timing Advisory Board is also a director of GPS company Trimble Navigation, which LightSquared believes led to a conflict of interest. It also says that it was excluded from the most recent testing of its network plans due to an agreement made between representatives of Trimble, which it claims led to the inclusion of obsolete GPS devices in the tests that "nearly guaranteed failure."

This latest report on LightSquared's network plans doesn't mean that things are over for the company just yet, but it's definitely not looking good. It's worth noting that Sprint signed a deal with LightSquared last year that would give the carrier the opportunity to use LightSquared's coverage to aid in the buildout of its own LTE network. However, Sprint recently put that deal on hold due to LightSquared's GPS issues. It'll be interesting to see how the FCC and other agencies respond to LightSquared's latest claims, and you can bet that we'll update you on any major goings-on in the situation. Until then, you can find the press release from LightSquared that addresses the tests findings down below.

Government Committee’s Refusal to Continue Testing Highlights Systemic Pattern of Bias and Collusion

PNT EXCOM’s Decision to Support GPS Industry and Halt Testing on High-Precision Devices Undermines Confidence and Highlights Conflict of Interest

RESTON, Va., January 13, 2012 – LightSquared™ is urging the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) to retake the lead on government testing for GPS filtering solutions after a series of actions by federal agencies have demonstrated bias and inappropriate collusion with the private sector as reported by numerous media outlets including Politico, PC World and Reuters.

The request follows a systematic disregard for fairness and transparency by the National Executive Committee (EXCOM) and Advisory Board for the Space-based Positioning, Navigation and Timing (PNT). The PNT EXCOM is a government panel established to “advise and coordinate federal departments and agencies on matters concerning the global positioning system (GPS) and related systems.” A panel of non-governmental officials known as the PNT Advisory Board provides guidance to the PNT EXCOM. Members of the PNT Advisory Board have deep ties with the same GPS manufacturers who have sold poorly designed equipment to America’s farmers, public safety officials, military and government agencies.

By abandoning its commitment to test filter solutions for high-precision GPS devices, the PNT EXCOM and PNT Advisory Board have put personal and private sector interests ahead of their public responsibilities. The filters in question have been proven in third-party tests to correct the faulty designs of high-precision GPS equipment and eliminate issues related to interference. Government tests are essential to proving the effectiveness of these filters, but could also mean the manufacturers of these devices will be required to replace millions of dollars in faulty equipment.

On Wednesday, LightSquared filed a complaint with the NASA Investigator General’s office regarding conflicts of interest on the PNT Advisory Board. As a director of Trimble, Vice-Chair of the Advisory Board, Dr. Brad Parkinson had a professional duty to his company to protect its market position and its increased shareholder value that directly contradicts his responsibility to provide impartial advice to the government.

Government testing has become unfair and shrouded from the public eye. Under an agreement worked out directly between representatives of Trimble – the same company that has paid for a year-long lobbying campaign against LightSquared’s network – LightSquared was specifically excluded from the testing process. The devices selected as part of the most recent round of testing include numerous obsolete and off-market GPS receivers that nearly guaranteed failure. Power levels used for testing were 32 times that of real-world conditions further stacking the deck in favor of GPS industry interests.

In retrospect, it was highly unlikely that PNT EXCOM, the Advisory Board and the testing they oversaw would ever be able to deliver on their obligation to provide a fair and unbiased assessment. Its membership simply has too much at stake.

LightSquared today urges the government, under the leadership of the FCC and NTIA to recommit to a fair and transparent process. Test results must be re-evaluated by unbiased officials and engineers. Testing must proceed in cooperation with all parties – LightSquared, government end-users, and GPS manufacturers – to ensure effective and appropriate guidelines are in place.

LightSquared intends to protect its legal rights in order to ensure that fairness, transparency and the rule of law are guiding the testing process.

LightSquared also intends to ensure that the government ultimately delivers on its obligation to provide a fair and transparent process to evaluate the technological solutions to the GPS interference issue. LightSquared has faith that, in the end, a fair process will prove that the technological solutions it has put forward will clear the way for hundreds of millions of Americans to get the wireless broadband competition they crave.

About LightSquared

LightSquared’s mission is to revolutionize the U.S. wireless industry. With the creation of the first-ever, wholesale-only nationwide 4G-LTE network integrated with satellite coverage, LightSquared offers people the speed, value and reliability of universal connectivity, wherever they are in the United States. As a wholesale-only operator, LightSquared will deploy an open 4G wireless broadband network to be used by existing and new service providers to sell their own devices, applications and services – at a competitive cost and without retail competition from LightSquared. The deployment and operation of LightSquared’s network represent more than $14 billion of private investment over the next eight years. For more information about LightSquared, please go to www.LightSquared.com, www.facebook.com/LightSquared and www.twitter.com/LightSquared.

Via PCMag, Scribd