Mobile

LightSquared files proposal for new spectrum block

Wholesale wireless network provider LightSquared will move the launch of its wireless network to a new block of spectrum after tests showed its current network plans interfered with GPS-enabled devices, the company announced Thursday.

LightSquared filed a proposal with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to launch its network on a lower block of the wireless spectrum than initially planned. The company said its revised plans for the network introduce a new system that does not interfere with 99.5 percent of all commercial GPS devices. It also does not interfere at all with any GPS-enabled cell phone, the company said.

The original 10 megahertz-block of wireless spectrum is used by satellites. But the FCC opened that block of spectrum up for ground-based wireless network providers earlier this year to give consumers more wireless access.

Government tests showed LightSquared’s wireless signal interfered with GPS devices on its planned block of spectrum. The receivers either lost signal strength or were completely disabled by LightSquared’s signal within the testing zone. The Federal Aviation Administration also found that aircraft flying below 2,000 feet were unable to use GPS equipment in cities and other densely-populated areas employing LightSquared’s mobile broadband network.

There is a finite amount of the wireless spectrum available for wireless network providers. So it’s no short order to make a wireless network broadcast on a new set of spectrum, and it has to be approved by the FCC. The amount of available spectrum is also rapidly decreasing because smartphones use 24 times the amount of spectrum that cell phones use, and tablets use 120 times the spectrum that cell phones use.

The Reston, Va.-based company said it expects its wireless service to be available to consumers in the first half of 2012. LightSquared has signed deals to distribute access to its wireless network through Best Buy, Sprint and Leap.

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