FCC's Genachowski: We won't let LightSquared operate without GPS interference resolution

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In response to an inquiry from Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) regarding the FCC's actions when it comes to authorizing LightSquared to operate, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski reiterated that the commission won't allow LightSquared to begin commercial service without resolving any potential interference with GPS and also sought to correct what he called two misperceptions surrounding LightSquared's quest to launch a wholesale LTE network.

Grassley has been pressing the FCC since April for information related to the potential interference with GPS and why the FCC granted LightSquared a waiver to operate using terrestrial-only equipment on an accelerated timetable. LightSquared plans to operate in the L-band satellite spectrum, which sits next to GPS spectrum.

"As I have stated previously to Congress, the commission will not permit LightSquared to begin commercial service without first resolving the commission's concerns about potential widespread harmful interference to GPS devices," Genachowski wrote. "Under no circumstances would I put at risk our nation's national defense or public safety."

Like LightSquared has been doing, Genachowski clarified that the commission's waiver it granted to LightSquared in January "was not the trigger to permit LightSquared access to the spectrum in the band adjacent to GPS." He reiterated that LightSquared's predecessors have had access to the band since 1995 and have been authorized to provide terrestrial service since 2004. The order, he said, allowed LightSquared and its wholesale customers to offer terrestrial-only devices rather than having to incorporate both satellite and terrestrial services, which adds cost to devices.

Moreover, Genachowski took a shot at the GPS community: "It should be no surprise to anyone involved in the LightSquared matter that the company was planning for some time to deploy a major terrestrial network in the spectrum adjacent to GPS," he wrote. He noted several FCC orders, including a March 2010 order that allowed Harbinger to control Skyterra (now LightSquared) in which Harbinger explained its plans to construct a network that would cover 90 percent of the U.S. And Genachowski noted that the GPS industry actively participated in proceedings as early as July 2009. In fact, the U.S. GPS Industry Council filed a joint letter with Skyterra agreeing that the GPS interference had been resolved.

"In fact, after the GPS Industry Council withdrew their initial concerns, no one raised any objections to the proceedings relative to GPS interference until after the two March orders were adopted and released," Genachowski wrote.

Genachowski also shed light on what actions the FCC and the National Telecommunication & Information Administration (NTIA) will take once LightSquared and the U.S. GPS Industry Council issue their final report on the GPS interference matter. The FCC has mandated that LightSquared and the council establish a technical working group (TWG) to investigate the issues. A final report is due on June 15 of this year.

Genachowski said that the commission and the NTIA will review the final report and establish a public comment cycle.

For more:
- see this FCC letter

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