The U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) said Feb. 14 it won’t let LightSquared begin service because its signals interfere with GPS navigation of cars, boats and planes. The FCC released a statement “Addressing harmful interference testing conclusions pertaining to LightSquared and Global Positioning Systems.”
The FCC described LightSquared’s technology as severely flawed” because it interferes with the GPS signals, widely used by the military, aviation, construction and agricultural industries.
The decision came in the wake of a second government study confirming the concerns raised by the GPS industry and others about the potential for the company’s planned network to interfere with millions of GPS devices.
LightSquared ran into problems because many GPS devices have not been built to effectively screen out the company’s signal.
“There appear to be no practical solutions or mitigations that would permit the LightSquared broadband service, as proposed, to operate in the next few months or years without significantly interfering with GPS,” Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton Carter and Deputy Transportation Secretary John Porcari wrote to the FCC from the National Executive Committee for Space-Based Positioning, Navigation & Timing.
Unfortunately LightSquared’s plan is probably not going to be carried out. The company had ambitious plans, and a better high-speed wireless network in the U.S. would be great for millions of Americans. But it cannot be at the expense of the GPS system.
LightSquared, backed by $3 billion from Philip Falcone’s Harbinger Capital Partners hedge fund, has spent roughly $14 billion creating the network.
Falcone purchased the under-used spectrum to run the network in 2010. It had originally been set aside by the government for low-energy satellite transmissions, but the FCC strongly supported his bid to increase competition in wireless Internet market by repurposing the spectrum.
Several analysts have said Falcone and LightSquared have few options left. They can try to sell the spectrum, swap it for better airwaves, or sue the government and reduce costs to stay afloat until a solution is found.
According to Business Week, Falcone is seeking to swap spectrum owned by LightSquared with that controlled by the U.S. Department of Defense, a person with knowledge of the company said.