Mobile

LightSquared blames GPS industry for interference problems

Mobile broadband startup LightSquared is blaming the GPS industry for the interference problems between GPS enabled-services and its LTE high-speed wireless network, the company stated Thursday in a letter to the Federal Communications Commission.

Regulators are still reviewing LightSquared’s network to determine the extent of those interference problems and won’t allow the company to deploy without approval. The company is understandably anxious to get the network up, since its core business model depends on providing wholesale wireless access to other companies.

The Reston, Virginia-based company claims that GPS device manufacturers failed to comply with wireless filtering standards recommended by the U.S. Department of Defense that would have prevented interference.

Of the estimated 500 million GPS-enabled devices in use, less than half a million experience interference issues  — or 99.5 percent of all commercial devices, a LightSquared spokesperson told VentureBeat. Devices that are susceptible to the interference include mostly construction and industrial machines with GPS capability.

“We realize that those devices are crucial to the country’s economy and want to work with the GPS industry for a solution,” the spokesperson said.

LightSquared made a new proposal to the FCC in June that moved it to the lower 10 megahertz-block of its wireless spectrum, which cost the company about $100 million. The company also pledged resources to front the cost of developing solutions to the GPS interference for that 0.5 percent of devices that experience problems. Still, regulators are demanding even more restrictions before approving deployment of LightSquared’s LTE network.

One of the measures communication regulators are asking for is a “guard band” between the lower portion of LightSquared’s spectrum and the higher end, which would help keep GPS free of interference. But the suggested level of that guard band is 8.5 times as wide as the DoD recommendation.

“If all spectrum users demanded the irrational guard band solutions that GPS manufacturers are demanding, we would not have broadband in this country and efficient spectrum use would take a backseat to the squeakiest wheel,” wrote LightSquared executive vice president for regulatory affairs & public policy Jeffrey Carlisle in a letter to the FCC. “This type of precedent would set back the United States’ competitiveness by decades.”

The reason for the push back from the GPS industry is the time, money and effort associated with altering devices that are susceptible to interference.

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