LightSquared GPS move “borders on the bizarre”

Greenfield operator LightSquared’s announcement of a solution to its GPS interference problems has been met with derision by GPS industry body, Coalition to Save Our GPS. The Coalition, which counts Garmin, TomTom, FedEx and the Air Transport Association among its members, issued a statement referring to “this latest gambit by LightSquared” as “bordering on the bizarre.”

Earlier this week, Lightsquared announced a plan to switch spectrum bands in an effort to head-off concerns that its frequencies interfere with GPS systems. The announcement came just two days after the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) granted the company an extension to a deadline requiring that it submit a report on interference. According to LightSquared, it planned to shift into a 10MHz block lower down on the spectrum band and “located further away from GPS frequencies, greatly reducing the risk for interference.” In addition, the company said that a 50 per cent reduction in the maximum authorised power of its base stations would offer additional protection.

Responding to the proposals, the Coalition said that “LightSquared’s supposed solution is nothing but a ‘Hail Mary’ move,” adding that confining operations to the lower band “still interferes with many critical GPS receivers in addition to the precision receivers that even LightSquared concedes will be affected.”  The Coalition accused LightSquared of “unilaterally delaying”  the filing of a study into the interference, saying that government results submitted to date and a study group report have already confirmed the interference beyond doubt. In a statement issued this week, Jim Kirkland, VP of Coalition founding member Trimble, said “It is time for LightSquared to move out of the MSS band.”

According to the Coalition, the FCC’s “conditional waiver for a proposal to build 40,000 ground stations that could cause widespread interference with GPS signals” to LightSquared is “highly unusual” and represents a danger to “a national utility which millions of Americans rely on every day.”

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