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LightSquared’s Last-Minute ‘Solution’ to GPS Interference Gets Skeptical Response from Some

Phillip Dampier June 22, 2011 LightSquared, Wireless Broadband 1 Comment

LightSquared, feeling pressure after independent studies showed significant interference problems created by its wireless broadband network, suddenly announced a “solution” to the problem — one getting skeptical reviews from those critical of the project.

The would-be mobile broadband provider claims it will abandon a 10MHz band adjacent to that used by GPS, moving further down “the dial” in hopes of avoiding future interference problems.  Company officials hailed the move, claiming it solves the GPS interference problem except for certain high precision GPS receivers that could still suffer from the further distant LightSquared signals.

“This is a solution which ensures that tens of millions of GPS users won’t be affected by LightSquared’s launch,” said Sanjiv Ahuja, LightSquared chairman and CEO. “At the same time, this plan offers a clear path for LightSquared to move forward with the launch of a nationwide wireless network that will introduce world class broadband service to rural and underserved areas which still find themselves on the wrong side of the digital divide.’’

But LightSquared’s decision to remain in the same vicinity of low powered satellite signals has not impressed its critics.

Among the largest is Save Our GPS, a coalition of GPS users and manufacturers who fear LightSquared could ruin GPS service for millions of Americans.

“This latest gambit by LightSquared borders on the bizarre,” said Jim Kirkland, vice president and general counsel of Trimble, a founding member of the Coalition. “Last week LightSquared unilaterally delayed filing of the study report that culminated months of intensive work to evaluate interference to GPS, because they purportedly needed two more weeks to analyze the results. LightSquared’s supposed solution is nothing but a ‘Hail Mary’ move.  Confining its operation to the lower MSS band still interferes with many critical GPS receivers in addition to the precision receivers that even LightSquared concedes will be affected.”

Kirkland said it’s time for LightSquared to find an entirely different set of frequencies for its service, well away from GPS.

As LightSquared’s challenges continue, the one potential bright spot may be its agreement with Sprint Nextel allowing Sprint to resell LightSquared’s 4G network.  The agreement includes sharing upgrade and equipment expenses, but could be extended to include spectrum resources owned or controlled by Sprint.

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