LightSquared granted extension on final GPS interference report

The FCC has granted LightSquared a two-week extension to issue its final report on tests that looked at whether LightSquared's terrestrial signals in the L-band spectrum interfere with GPS.  

LightSquared and the U.S. Global Positioning System Industry Council formed a technical working group--as required by the FCC--in February to investigate potential interference problems posed by LightSquared's base stations transmitting terrestrially in the L-band, which sits adjacent to frequencies used by GPS receivers. The working group had been issuing periodic reports, and the final report was due June 15.

In January, the FCC granted LightSquared a waiver to allow LightSquared to provide terrestrial-only service in its L-band spectrum, which had previously been allocated mainly for satellite use. But it has to prove the signals don't interfere with GPS receivers first. the GPS community has continually decried the FCC's move, saying the powerful signal produced by LightSquared's base stations will knock out GPS. It claims there is no fix and that the FCC should move LightSquared to different spectrum.

In the company's request for an extension, Jeffrey Carlisle, LightSquared's executive vice president of regulatory affairs and public policy, told the FCC that one of the main reasons for the delay is the fact that LightSquared determined that additional testing beyond what had been planned initially was required. That additional testing included alternative frequency plans to support the company's LTE network rollout.

"Proper resolution of the GPS receiver overload issue is not possible without a final report that has been adequately considered, documented, and reviewed before it is filed," wrote Carlisle. "Additional time is needed to complete these critical tasks."

The Coalition to Save our GPS was quick to criticize the two-week delay of the report.

"After pushing the FCC to order an accelerated review of the interference issues raised by its proposed service, a process that has consumed massive governmental and private resources, LightSquared has now unilaterally sought to delay the process for two weeks," said Jim Kirkland, vice president and general counsel with Trimble, in a statement. "The working group results show devastating interference to GPS and no proven method of mitigation.  Delay will not change these results.  These results are the same results the FCC had had before it granted the waiver.  It is disappointing that LightSquared has misused its control over the process to delay this filing.  It's time for LightSquared and the FCC to stop squandering resources and move on to spectrum that does not impact GPS."

The Wall Street Journal, citing unnamed sources familiar with the matter, said the final report will show that LightSquared's proposed LTE network for wholesale services will cause interference with GPS receivers.

The publication said the FCC report will show that while the two sides agree there is interference, they remain at odds over whether there is a technical fix to the solution. Some of the report's conclusion were foreshadowed last week at a meeting of a government GPS panel, where government agencies reported that tests showed LightSquared's network caused interference with GPS receivers, especially in upper portion of spectrum.

LightSquared executives have said they are committed to finding a solution that will work for both the company and GPS users; one possible solution LightSquared executives have proposed is putting filters on the company's infrastructure to limit interference.  

"To the extent that the GPS manufacturers are saying that there's no possible way that this can be fixed, they're wrong," Jeff Carlisle, LightSquared's executive vice president of regulatory affairs, told the Journal. "We believe this points the way to mitigation solutions that will work for the GPS manufacturers and for us to move forward with our network."

For more:
- see LightSquared's filing

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