Lawmakers urge review of LightSquared GPS interference concerns

Two U.S. senators have asked their colleagues to urge the FCC to ensure that LightSquared's forthcoming wholesale LTE network does not interfere with GPS, the latest pressure from within the government on the issue.

In the letter, Sens. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) and Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) said that the full FCC "must be involved and require LightSquared to objectively demonstrate non-interference as a condition prior to any operation of its proposed service. Anything less is an unacceptable risk to public safety."

Along with its funding future, the GPS interference concerns have emerged over the past few months as a stumbling block for LightSquared, which has inked deals with Cricket provider Leap Wireless (NASDAQ:LEAP), Best Buy and Open Range Communications. In late March, the Defense Department and the Department of Transportation asked the FCC to force a more comprehensive study of the potential interference problems with GPS.

The GPS community has said that LightSquared's satellite L-band spectrum, in the 1.5-1.6 GHz band, is too close to GPS spectrum, and that the company's cell sites will cause harmful interference. As a condition of the waiver the FCC granted LightSquared in late January to provide terrestrial-only service, the company must resolve GPS interference issues before turning on its commercial service, which it plans to do sometime in the third quarter.

LightSquared formed a working group in February with the United States Global Positioning System Industry Council to study the interference issues. LightSquared has to report to the FCC regularly about its progress and a final report is due in June.  

Jeff Carlisle, LightSquared's executive vice president of regulatory affairs, said the company appreciates and shares the senators' desire to ensure effective communications capabilities for public safety, national defense and consumers.

"To ensure that the LightSquared network and the GPS systems can coexist, we will continue to work collaboratively with federal agencies and the GPS community, just as we have over the past 10 years," Carlisle said in a statement. "We are confident these issues can be addressed and we will launch LightSquared's commercial operations only when the current review process is completed to the FCC's satisfaction."

For more:
- see this letter (PDF)

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