LightSquared tries to appease GPS opponents

LightSquared says it has formed a rural initiative to ensure that its wireless network doesn't interfere with GPS systems.

Roger Cheng Former Executive Editor / Head of News
Roger Cheng (he/him/his) was the executive editor in charge of CNET News, managing everything from daily breaking news to in-depth investigative packages. Prior to this, he was on the telecommunications beat and wrote for Dow Jones Newswires and The Wall Street Journal for nearly a decade and got his start writing and laying out pages at a local paper in Southern California. He's a devoted Trojan alum and thinks sleep is the perfect -- if unattainable -- hobby for a parent.
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Roger Cheng
2 min read

LightSquared said today it has launched a program focused on smaller communities with the intent of preventing any interference between GPS systems and its planned wireless network, another move to placate opponents of the rollout.

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

LightSquared, which is building a 4G network and will offer services to other companies on a wholesale basis, said it has started the Empower Rural America Initiative. The group will work with small communities on the GPS issue, help develop filters that would prevent interference, address concerns from those small towns, and help widen the adoption of broadband service.

LightSquared, which is owned by Philip Falcone's Harbinger Capital, needs to appease the opponents to get its network up and running. The company plans to begin testing its network with customers next year, and has lined up partners including Best Buy.

LightSquared, however, faces stiff resistance from a group called the Coalition To Save Our GPS, which has warned that the signals used in LightSquared's upcoming wireless network would cripple GPS satellites necessary for running everything from navigation devices to agricultural equipment.

"LightSqaured persists with a plan that is simply unworkable," said Dale Leibach, a spokesman for the coalition.

Leibach said the talk about filters is speculation, and reiterated that LightSquared's plans would cause massive interference with GPS systems.

Last month, LightSquared offered a workaround to the interference, which would involve using a different swath of spectrum it says wouldn't affect a majority of GPS systems. The coalition, however, said the proposal wasn't sufficient.

The initiative has an advisory board that includes former Sen. Byron Dorgan of North Dakota and former Reps. George Nethercutt of Washington and Charlie Stenholm of Texas.