LightSquared Solution to GPS Interference Clears Way for Nationwide 4G Network (Sorta)

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LightSquared Solution to GPS Interference Clears Way for Nationwide 4G Network (Sorta)


Came across an interesting news release from LightSquared, the nation’s first wholesale-only integrated wireless broadband and satellite network, today outlined a comprehensive solution to the problem of interference with Global Positioning System (GPS) receivers. This solution will permit LightSquared to proceed with its business plan, protect the public’s stake in GPS and lay the foundation for the future co-existence of a variety of wireless broadband services and GPS.

“This is a solution which ensures that tens of millions of GPS users won’t be affected by LightSquared’s launch. At the same time, this plan offers a clear path for LightSquared to move forward with the launch of a nationwide wireless network that will introduce world class broadband service to rural and underserved areas which still find themselves on the wrong side of the digital divide,’’ said Sanjiv Ahuja, LightSquared Chairman and CEO.


Early test results indicated that one of LightSquared’s 10MHz blocks of frequencies poses interference to many GPS receivers. This block happens to be the specific set of frequencies that LightSquared planned to use for the initial launch of its nationwide wireless broadband network.

Based on those same early test results, LightSquared determined that another 10MHz block of the spectrum did not create such an interference risk. This block is lower on the spectrum band and located further away from the GPS frequencies, greatly reducing the risk for interference.

Test results show this lower block of frequencies is largely free of interference issues with the exception of a limited number of high precision GPS receivers that are specifically designed to rely on LightSquared’s spectrum. In its original plan, LightSquared planned to move into this other frequency block as its business grew over the next two to three years.

Wait a minute. "largely free of interference"? "with the exception of a limited number of high precision GPS receivers". How limited? As an owner of a high-precision GPS myself, this certainly gives me pause. I would be mighty ticked off to be driving somewhere I'm not familiar with using my GPS and LightSquared caused interference. Sounds to me ike LightSquared is saying, "98% of GPS units will work, but you fools that paid several hundred dollars on high-end GPS units are screwed. Sorry, but business is business. We'll put away a few million for the inevitable lawsuits, but we gotta get moving on this 4G rollout."

Of course, I could be reading too much into this... Let's examine the rest of their statement:

After assessing this information, LightSquared immediately began developing an alternative deployment plan focused on the lower block of spectrum to launch its nationwide wireless broadband service. It also entered negotiations with Inmarsat, the satellite company that controls the alternative block of spectrum in the L Band, to accelerate the schedule for LightSquared to begin using the frequencies.

LightSquared recently reached an agreement with Inmarsat that will allow the rollout of its wireless network in a timeframe that keeps to the original business plan and is in accordance with regulatory requirements. As part of this revised plan, LightSquared will modify its FCC license to reduce the maximum authorized power of its base-station transmitters by over 50%. This action will limit LightSquared to the power it was authorized to use in 2005, which will provide additional protection to GPS.

This new plan will give LightSquared enough spectrum to serve its growing customer base for the next several years. During this time, LightSquared will not use the spectrum it originally planned to use for the launch of its network.

LightSquared will use this time to work closely with the FCC and the NTIA, as well as the relevant US government agencies and commercial GPS users, to explore mitigation possibilities and operational alternatives that will allow LightSquared to continue to expand its business and serve American consumers’ increasing need for wireless broadband services which are so critical to the development of a 21st century economy. At the same time, LightSquared is committed to protecting GPS services, which have become indispensible to millions of Americans.

LightSquared believes that its next-generation, 4G LTE wholesale network can live harmoniously, side-by-side, with GPS users. Enlightened and responsible spectrum management will give the American public the best of both worlds – a world class wireless broadband network and a GPS service that continues to enrich and protect our lives. With this plan, LightSquared has taken a giant step toward that goal.

On a related note, check out Gary Kim's article LightSquared in 15-Year Deal with Sprint?

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