LightSquared says it has fix to GPS interference problems

LightSquared, which is building a nationwide 4G LTE network to compete with Verizon Wireless and AT&T, says it has come up with a solution to its GPS interference issues.

Marguerite Reardon Former senior reporter
Marguerite Reardon started as a CNET News reporter in 2004, covering cellphone services, broadband, citywide Wi-Fi, the Net neutrality debate and the consolidation of the phone companies.
Marguerite Reardon
2 min read

LightSquared, which is building a nationwide 4G LTE network, said today it has a fix that will ensure its network doesn't interfere with GPS navigation equipment.

The company said it is setting aside spectrum that is in the spectrum band adjacent to the one used for GPS or Global Positioning Systems. LightSquared has worked out a deal with satellite provider Inmarsat to use frequencies lower in the spectrum band that is further away from the GPS spectrum. These frequencies are not expected to interfere with GPS gear.

Originally, LightSquared had planned to move into that band of spectrum over the next couple of years as its business grew. But now it plans to use those frequencies when it launches the service.

The new plan is expected to reduce the risk of interference to 99.5 percent of GPS receivers, the company told the Dow Jones Newswires. LightSquared plans to work with GPS providers to ensure there are technical fixes to the other issues that may come up.

LightSquared, which is funded by the hedge fund Harbinger Capital, has been planning to build a network that will offer a mobile broadband service using the 4G wireless technology LTE. It will use spectrum that has been allocated for both satellite and terrestrial use. By using the combined spectrum, the company said that it will be offer wireless broadband both to remote parts of the U.S., while also providing plenty of high speed wireless capacity to dense cities.

The company plans to sell its service to other wireless operators, such as smaller players like Leap Wireless, which has already signed on as a wholesale customer. It will also offer the service to retailers, such as BestBuy, which has agreed to test the service to sell along with its products.

The Federal Communications Commission granted the company a waiver to use the satellite and terrestrial spectrum on the condition that it doesn't pose major interference issues with GPS devices. Last week, initial tests suggested that the service would cause interference for several types of GPS receivers, including ones that are used for public safety and aviation.

The company is also seeking more funding to build its network. On Friday, Harbinger Capital reportedly sent a letter to investors stating that it had signed a 15-year agreement with Sprint Nextel, according to Bloomberg News, which obtained a copy of the letter. The agreement is valued at around $20 billion and calls for LightSquared and Sprint to share some of the costs for building the network.

According to the letter, "LightSquared and Sprint will jointly develop, deploy and operate LightSquared's 4G LTE network. [And] Sprint will become a significant customer of LightSquared's 4G LTE network."

The FCC granted LightSquared an extension for its final report on interference until July 1. And the company will offer more details of its plans in that report.