LightSquared to FCC: We can fix GPS issues

The start-up files its alternative plan with the FCC as it looks to clear the way to build a 4G wireless network. The GPS community says the latest proposal is not enough.

LightSquared , the hedge-fund-backed start-up that plans to build a nationwide wireless 4G network using both satellite and land-based spectrum, today filed its official plan for reducing interference between its service and GPS navigation systems.

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

LightSquared acknowledged earlier this month that its initial network plan interfered with GPS navigation devices, such as those used in cars, on boats, and by the U.S. Department of Defense. But the company said its new proposal will solve most of those issues. And the company called on the GPS community, which has been critical of LightSquared's plans, to help it resolve the remaining issues.

"This issue will be resolved by good data, smart engineers and good-faith problem-solving dialogue," Sanjiv Ahuja, LightSquared CEO, said in a statement. "The end result will be continuity for the reliable and safe GPS system we have come to depend on along with a new high-speed wireless network that will provide huge benefits to consumers.''

In the detailed report to the FCC, the company said it would use a new block of spectrum that is further away from the GPS frequencies and thus will cause less interference. The company has said that this would reduce interference for 99.5 percent of GPS devices in service. To mitigate interference among the remaining devices, LightSquared said it would work with the GPS community to resolve the issues.

The GPS community says this latest proposal is not enough. They want more testing to ensure that the interference issues are handled. They especially think that LightSquared's proposal needs to be tested before the FCC allows the company to continue building its network.

"There hasn't been enough testing around this new plan," said Bobby Sturgell, former acting administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration and currently senior vice president at Rockwell Collins, a company that develops navigation products for the aviation industry. "No one wants to stop broadband services from going forward. But it shouldn't be done in a way that is going to black-out GPS service. There are still enough details on the table that need to be figured out, and engineers should take as long as they need."

LightSquared is building a network using the 4G technology called LTE. And it hopes its network will compete with companies, such as AT&T and Verizon Wireless, which are also building 4G wireless networks. But LightSquared won't sell service directly to consumers, instead it plans to sell its service to other wireless providers, such as Sprint Nextel and Leap Wireless, which could use its network to offer 4G LTE service. It also could sell the service to big-box retailers, such as Best Buy , another partner, which will use the network to deliver services for products they sell through the retail chain.

The wireless spectrum used to build the service previously was reserved for satellite-only services. LightSquared obtained a special waiver from the FCC earlier this year to use the spectrum for land-based communications as well as satellite communications. The process for freeing up the spectrum for use on land as well as for satellite communications has been going on at the FCC for eight years.

FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said in a letter to Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) that the agency will take public comments about interference issues before LightSquared can proceed with its network.

 

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