U.S. Govt halts GPS tests after interference, LightSquared cries foul

On Friday, a group of government agencies with portfolios in GPS and related technologies announced that it had halted testing of LightSquared’s proposed network after it found that “plans for its proposed mobile network would cause harmful interference to many GPS receivers.”

The U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) had requested that the nine federal departments and agencies comprising the National Space-Based Positioning, Navigation and Timing (PNT) Executive Committee (EXCOM) test and analyze LightSquared’s proposals to repurpose the Mobile Satellite Services (MSS) frequency band adjacent to GPS frequencies.

In a letter addressed to Lawrence Strickling, head of the NTIA, the PNT EXCOM said that they had come to a unanimous conclusion.

“Both LightSquared’s original and modified plans for its proposed mobile network would cause harmful interference to many GPS receivers,” says the letter. 

The letter also states that the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) found that LightSquared’s solutions interfere with some GPS-dependent aircraft systems. 

“Based upon this testing and analysis, there appears to be no practical solutions or mitigations that would permit the LightSquared broadband services, as proposed, to operate in the next few months or years without significantly interfering with GPS,” says the letter.

Shortly after the letter was released, LightSquared drafted a response asking for the FCC and NTIA to take over government testing after “a series of actions by federal agencies have demonstrated bias and inappropriate collusion with the private sector.”

“Government testing has become unfair and shrouded from the public eye,” says Terry Neal, senior vice president of Corporate Communications at LightSquared.

According to LightSquared, the filters in question have been proven affective by third-party testing. LightSquared alleges that members of the PNT advisory board have “deep ties” with GPS manufacturers that sold poorly designed GPS equipment.

“Government tests are essential to proving the effectiveness of these filters, but could also mean the manufacturers of these devices will be required to replace millions of dollars in faulty equipment,” says Neal.

LightSquared claims that the board has “put personal and private section interests ahead of their public responsibilities.”

Other claims made by LightSquared include the use of obsolete GPS receivers that practically guarantee failure, as well as using power levels 32 times that of real-world conditions.

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