FCC Vows to Protect GPS System Signals From LightSquared Network Interference

GPS system satellitesLightSquared is currently seeking approval from the FCC to move forward with its plans to build out a broadband wireless network. But the company has been facing fierce opposition from dozens of companies and organizations claiming the proposed network will interfere with GPS system signals.

Construction of LightSquared’s new wireless network is currently on hold as federal regulators wait to make sure the network will not cause interference with GPS system receivers. However, the FCC could not provide a timetable as to when continued testing, design modification, and review of the project would be complete.

In an effort to resolve the issue and make a decision , this week the FCC sent letters to both LightSquared and key members of the GPS industry. Letters were sent to LightSquared’s engineering and technology chief  Julius Knapp,  and GPS industry members such as Garmin (NASDAQ: GRMN), and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). The FCC asked both parties to spell out exactly which GPS devices see interference and how those devices will interact with LightSquared’s newly scaled-down deployment plan.

“We’re not gonna do anything that creates problems for GPS safety and service,” said FCC chairman Julius Genachowski at a briefing Tuesday with reporters. Congressional lawmakers, responding to concerns that began to be raised months ago by the GPS industry and grassroots groups, have demanded to know why the agency failed to realize the potential problem.

In a letter among colleagues this past May, several members of the U.S. House of Representatives warned, “These new transmission stations will emit signals that are one billion times more powerful than satellite GPS. These ground-based signals will interfere with GPS usage and could render the technology useless in many areas of the country.”  The letter urged fellow lawmakers to ask the FCC to reconsider their decision granting tentative approval to the project.

This week Knapp asked the GPS industry to provide some more specifics about the number and lifespan of devices that it believes interfere with the spectrum licensed to LightSquared for the deployment of its satellite broadband network.



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