LightSquared Looking Desperate, GPS Coalition Says

Company plan to launch on lower frequency comes out of the blue.

LightSquared, which has beem promoting a high-powered terrestrial broadband internet system making use of the frequency band adjacent to that used by GPS, has announced a proposal to move away from GPS frequency bandwidth and reduce the power of its transmitters by 50 percent. The proposed modification would cut the bandwidth of the company's proposed terrestrial broadband Internet system while not completely cutting out harmful GPS interference. Insiders see it as a last ditch move by LightSquared to save its system, which, based on interference results, looked to be in deep trouble. Congressional hearings have even been called to look into the potential interference issues.

The move by LightSquared to modify the structure of its system comes after a number of studies have shown the company's original plan to install more than 40,000 U.S. stations and transmit on the frequency next to that used by GPS would cause significant GPS interference. In the past months that plan has stirred an increasing amount of controversy among America's pilots, trucker, sailors, farmers and others, including consumers, who rely heavily upon solid GPS reception.

Instead of the band directly adjacent to GPS, LightSquared now says it will utilize a 10-MHz frequency block lower on the spectrum, which is currently occupied by satellite company Inmarsat.

While LightSquared’s plan poses a variety of new logistical hurdles, the company contends the move will eliminate 99.5 percent of all GPS reception problems and will only leave a “limited number” of high precision receivers at risk of interference. The problem, of course, is that remains a huge number when weighed against the critical nature of the GPS signal and the grave safety risks interference presents.

LightSquared plans to release the results of an FCC-mandated study looking into how much the original proposed system would interfere with GPS, a study that it was supposed to have released last week.

The new proposal has been widely panned and an industry group, Coalition to Save our GPS, which in a press release referred to the new plan as a "Hail Mary."