LightSquared Says GPS Testing ‘Rigged’

LightSquared, the company that’s seeking final FCC approval to build a nationwide 4G wireless network, claims that recent government testing showing its service interferes with GPS signals was “rigged.”

The tests, carried out by Air Force Space Command on behalf of the government’s Space-Based Positioning, Navigation, and Timing Executive Committee, concluded that the LightSquared’s proposed service, which uses a satellite frequency band adjacent to GPS frequencies, raises “serious concerns” because of its potential to block out GPS signals. Recent FAA testing came to the same conclusion.

But the Air Force tests were a sham orchestrated by GPS manufacturers and the government, designed to set up the company for failure, claimed LightSquared.

“The process used to test GPS devices by Air Force Space Command on behalf of the Space-Based Positioning, Navigation, and Timing Executive Committee (PNT EXCOM) was rigged by manufacturers of GPS receivers and government end users to produce bogus results, and revealed details of the testing to document its accusations,” the company said in a statement. “The GPS manufacturers cherry-picked the devices in secret without any independent oversight authority in place or input from LightSquared. The testing protocol deliberately focused on obsolete and niche market devices that were least able to withstand potential interference."

LightSquared noted that some devices tested have been out of production for over a decade. It further claimed the testing standard was unreasonably harsh, defining failure as a single decibel of interference.

"Independent experts agree that a 1 dB threshold can only be detected in laboratory settings and has no impact on GPS positional accuracy or user experience," the company said. "In fact, GPS devices are designed with the ability to withstand 8 dB or more of loss of sensitivity due to man-caused and natural interference. By setting the definition of interference at 1 dB, the testing was rigged to ensure that most receivers would fail."

LightSquared is demanding further testing be conducted.

The Coalition To Save Our GPS, an industry group, dismissed the accusations as nothing more than a desperate act by a desperate company.

“At each and every turn in this process, whenever LightSquared does not like a test result or ruling, it either seeks to change the parameters or cries foul – and frequently both,” said Jim Kirkland, vice president for Trimble. “LightSquared assured one and all that its plans would not cause interference with GPS. But test after test has shown that LightSquared’s ill-conceived plans do in fact cause widespread interference with GPS. LightSquared does not like the test results, so it is attacking the testers.”


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