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Motorola preps patch for GPS glitch

Handset maker and SiRF Technology are testing a remedy for problem that disrupts satellite-tracking features in some Nextel phones.

Motorola is set to release a fix for software problems that have disrupted satellite-tracking features in some of its cell phones for almost two weeks.

As previously reported, the satellite location services for possibly hundreds of thousands of Motorola phones hasn't been working since about July 17. A-GPS (Assisted Global Positioning System), as it's known, determines a caller's location using a combination of software on the phone and information from satellites and the cell phone network.

Motorola and GPS chipmaker SiRF Technology on Monday said they were testing a remedy for the problem, which occurs in software that acts as an interface between the SiRF chips and the Motorola phones. The two companies refused to specify the exact date of the fix's release but said it will be "sooner rather than later," a source familiar with the companies' plans said.

The testing is being done under the watchful eye of Nextel Communications, the only carrier affected by the problems, which were discovered in eight different Motorola phones. The company said in a statement that it wants to ensure that whatever is released "fully addresses the issue."

The cell phones with the problems are the Motorola i205, i305, i530, i710, i730, i733, i736 and i830.

One of many concerns is how the bug will affect 911 calls. Emergency calls from cell phones must be accompanied by the phone's location, which network operators determine via several means. Because the A-GPS fails to boot up, any features that rely on the phone's location--including some emergency calls, Nextel's fleet-locating service or its real-time weather updates--are affected to various degrees.

As a precaution, Nextel said it has temporarily disabled the transmission of the A-GPS information. But 911 calls will still be accompanied by less accurate location information by using the nearest cellular site.