Feds release report citing LightSquared interference with GPS

A report stating that LightSquared's wireless network interferes with most GPS devices has been officially released.

LightSquared's wireless network will interfere with a "majority" of GPS devices, according to a report from federal officials.

LightSquared CEO Sanjiv Ahuja delivers a speech at CTIA 2011. CNET/Marguerite Reardon

The official report released late yesterday, showed that the LightSquared network still caused harmful interference in a majority of general-purpose GPS receivers, according to Anthony Russo, director of the National Coordination Office for Space-based Positioning, Navigation and Timing, an advisory committee made up of government and industry.

The Department of Transportation and the Department of Defense joined in the statement issued on Wednesday.

The Federal Aviation Administration conducted separate testing, and it also found that LightSquared's network interferes with a flight-safety, according to the statement.

Sanjiv Ahuja, LightSquared's CEO, said the company will not give up on its plans. And in a statement he said the company will "work with the FAA on addressing the one remaining issue regarding terrain avoidance systems." Still, he said that the company disagrees with the conclusions regarding interference with general navigation devices.

Ahuja explained that the testing actually confirmed "that the interference issues are not caused by LightSquared's spectrum, but by GPS devices looking into spectrum that is licensed to LightSquared."

Findings from the advisory board's draft report were reported last week ahead of the official publication of results. LightSquared called for an investigation into the leaking of that information before the official report was released. The company noted that only the negative portions of the tests were shown previously, and that the conclusions were based on incorrect assumptions.

LightSquared is planning to build a nationwide 4G wireless network, but because the spectrum frequencies it will use for this network are close to the frequencies used by GPS devices, there has been concern that the company's network will interfere with GPS devices already in use.

Tests earlier this year showed that there would be interference with many GPS systems. This latest test confirms the problems found in the earlier test. LightSquared has acknowledged the issues and the company has agreed to alter its plans and use only frequencies furthest from the GPS frequencies to avoid interference. The company has also said it will lower the power of towers to mitigate interference.

There will be a third test in January that will look at potential interference with high-precision devices.

These tests are important because LightSquared still needs to get final approval from the FCC to proceed with building its network. There's a lot of money at stake. Philip Falcone's hedge fund Harbinger Capital Partners has already committed $3 billion to the network. LightSquared has also lined up deals with other companies. It has a network sharing deal with Sprint Nextel as well as deals with other companies like Best Buy and Leap Wireless.

 

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