Falcone blames existing GPS players for LightSquared interference issues

Philip Falcone, manager of hedge fund Harbinger Investments, which funds US wholesale LTE/satellite player LightSquared, has hit back at the US interest group the Coalition to Save our GPS, claiming that interference problems are the fault of incumbent GPS users, and not of LightSquared. In an interview with US broadcaster CNBC, Falcone said that existing GPS users did not apply the “proper filtering” to their devices and that “we’re not interfering with them; they’re interfering with us.”

Earlier this week the Coalition suggested that the kind of filters that LightSquared has argued could solve interference problems “generally do not exist (and therefore could not be tested).” In a filing to US regulator the FCC, the group continued: “The only [filter] that worked was under an extremely limited set of circumstances, and even if an effective filter did exist (which it does not), retrofitting existing devices would be nearly impossible.”

The Coalition has also rubbished LightSquared’s suggestion that moving its GPS operations to a different spectrum band could also solve interference issues. In June LightSquared announced plans to shift to a 10Mhz block further down the spectrum band, a move which it said would “greatly reduce the risk for interference”. The Coalition derided this move as a “gambit” that was “bordering on the bizarre”.

The Coalition argued this week that, if allowed to proceed to operation by the FCC, LightSquared could cause almost $100bn worth of damage to incumbent GPS operations.

“While LightSquared promises to deliver billions of dollars of consumer benefits which have no basis in reality, it will cause very real disruption to Global Positioning System (GPS), which today serves critical personal, governmental and public safety functions, and is responsible for between $68 billion and $122 billion of economic activity per year,” the Coalition said. “Not only will that economic engine be threatened by LightSquared’s operations, it would cost approximately $96 billion to ameliorate damage caused by LightSquared to the GPS industry.”

Meanwhile LightSquared continued its public relations offensive this week, announcing that it had transferred 50,000 enterprise and public safety customers to its new SkyTerra satellite system. It also said that it had donated 2,000 satellite phones to tribal nations in the states of Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Arizona, which it said reflected its mission to bring “twenty-first century communications to rural regions” of the US.

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