LightSquared, the company that is rolling out a nationwide broadband network operating in frequencies very near those of GPS, claims it is closing in on final approvals from the Federal Communications Commission after the successful completion of the latest round of interference testing.
The company said it believes the FCC will make a decision on its proposed network in the first quarter of next year, and will rule in its favor now that the majority of testing has been finished. LightSquared says it could launch its network within nine months of receiving government approval.
The aviation industry, which fears LightSquared’s network will interfere with GPS receivers on aircraft, is maintaining a wait-and-see attitude. LightSquared faces one more round of testing next month, this time of high-precision GPS devices including aviation receivers.
The company slammed a recent report by Bloomberg News, which said testing indicated LightSquared’s network would interfere with 75 percent of the GPS receivers tested. Company officials said the leaked report was based on “selective data” and reflected power levels 32 times higher than LightSquared’s proposed network. The company did admit, however, that interference was found in 14 of 92 devices tested.
Despite LightSquared’s predictions about an imminent FCC approval, the aviation industry remains unconvinced that all of the interference issues have been addressed.
“There are ongoing technical discussions between LightSquared and the FAA regarding impacts on aviation safety, which remain unresolved,” noted Jim Kirkland, vice president and general counsel for Trimble, a founding member of the Coalition to Save Our GPS. “Once all of this testing and analysis has been completed, we will have a much more complete picture of the impacts of LightSquared’s revised proposals on GPS. It is obviously premature to claim at this point that these latest tests demonstrate that LightSquared’s proposed repurposing of the mobile satellite band for terrestrial operations is ‘compatible’ with high-precision GPS.”
LightSquared wants to install 40,000 ground towers across the United States that will provide broadband data connectivity to most of the country. Early testing showed that the towers’ transmissions would interfere with GPS receivers. LightSquared has suggested the GPS industry add filters to its devices to prevent interference.