Senators Urge FCC to Withdraw LightSquared License Waiver

FAA interference testing under way in Nevada desert

Members of a bipartisan group of 33 U.S. senators have signed a letter sent to Federal Communications Commission chairman Julius Genachowski urging him to overturn a frequency spectrum license waiver awarded to broadband satellite communications company LightSquared until testing can show the company's mobile 4G technology won't interfere with GPS signal reception.

The issue has been a hot-button topic for months, with dire warnings about the potential for LightSquared ground transmitters to knock out GPS signals to aircraft, emergency responders and others prompting the formation of the Coalition to Save Our GPS, a lobbying group that counts among its members Garmin, AOPA, the Aircraft Electronics Association and scores of others from inside and outside the aviation industry.

The senate letter came after the International Bureau, a sub-organization within the FCC, granted a conditional waiver earlier this year permitting LightSquared to build 40,000 ground stations throughout the United States to enhance its satellite network. Experts say those stations could cause widespread interference to nearby GPS receivers, because the spectrum used by LightSquared is adjacent to the spectrum reserved for GPS.

Interference testing of LightSquared’s ground transmitter technology now under way in the Nevada desert is expected to conclude tomorrow. AOPA is urging pilots to report any GPS signal interruptions while flying in the vicinity of Las Vegas and Boulder City.

“We have substantial concerns that LightSquared’s proposal places an unacceptable risk to public safety through interference with GPS receivers necessary for aviation, first responders, agriculture, construction, maritime navigation, E-911, and national defense systems,” the May 19 letter stated, adding, “GPS is integral to the functioning of our economy, and is essential for public safety. To ensure full protection that GPS service is not compromised in any way, we request the full Commission require LightSquared to demonstrate non-interference of GPS as a condition prior to any operation of its proposed service, and we request the Commission rescind LightSquared’s waiver until this demonstration can be made.”