LightSquared, the hybrid cellular/satellite wireless option that some believe could be a fourth generation mobile outlet for the cable industry, is running tests that may effect GPS system signals in the Las Vegas area. The tests are being conducted in cooperation with the GPS industry and multiple federal agencies beginning this week and throughout June in Las Vegas suburb Boulder City.
LightSquared is testing to see whether its service network interferes with GPS system signals. The Las Vegas Sun reports that a test will run after midnight for several hours for 10 days, and it appears to be the first lengthy real-world test to determine whether the operator’s network interferes with GPS systems.
Government agencies have warned law enforcement, pilots, and several other groups that LightSquared’s tests could possibly knock out GPS systems in the Las Vegas area. Late last week, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) issued an alert to pilots that “the GPS signal may be unreliable or unavailable” within a nearly 300-mile radius of Boulder City, where the test transmitter will be located.
Similar tests took place recently in New Mexico and the results were not great for LightSquared. Bill Range, director of New Mexico’s E911 program reported that April tests of the service resulted in “substantial concerns that the LightSquared network will cause interference to GPS signals and jeopardize 911 and public safety nationwide.”
State police cars parked directly under a LightSquared cell tower experienced “system failure.” When driving around the test site in Alamogordo (a neighbor of nearby White Sands missile range) cars continued to receive “incorrect” information. Ambulances reportedly could not establish any connection within 60 yards of the tower.