Another blow for LightSquared

Greenfield operator LightSquared’s woes look set to continue, with news that a US House of Representative’s committee has passed a bill blocking the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) from granting the would-be wholesaler a waiver it needs to move forward. The House Appropriations Committee has passed a measure preventing the FCC from spending any money on the granting of the required waiver, effectively making it impossible for LightSquared’s plans to continue.

Earlier this year, the FCC had waived regulations limiting LightSquared’s network plans, allowing it to build out its hybrid satellite-LTE network on the condition that it both tested for and resolved any issues of interference with GPS.  Since then, GPS industry groups have lobbied strenuously against LightSquared and the FCC’s decision, claiming it had a hazardous effect on GPS technologies and, consequently, posed a threat to public safety.

Under the legislation, “None of the funds made available in this Act may be used by the Federal Communications Commission to remove the conditions imposed on commercial terrestrial operations…or otherwise permit such operations until the Commission has resolved concerns of potential widespread harmful interference” with commercial GPS devices.

GPS industry body Coaltion to Save Our GPS has, unsurprisingly, responded positively to the news, with VP of Coalition founding member Trimble,  Jim Kirkland, saying that the vote “puts teeth into legislation that will protect government and private GPS users from LightSquared’s proposal.” According to the Coalition, which counts Garmin, TomTom and FedEx among its members, the passing of the amendment was “punctuated with a loud response – underscoring the growing Congressional concern about the harmful interference to GPS” that it says will occur should LightSquared be allowed to continue.

Earlier this week, LightSquared’s announcement of a solution to its GPS interference problem was met with derision by the Coalition, which referred to “this latest gambit by LightSquared” as “bordering on the bizarre.” LightSquared had announced a plan to switch spectrum bands in an effort to head-off concerns that its frequencies interfered with GPS. The Coalition remains adamant that LightSquared’s equipment “still interferes with many critical GPS receivers in addition to the precision receivers that even LightSquared concedes will be affected,” and insists that it is time the company “moved out of the MSS band.”

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