LightSquared to build out LTE network soon

LightSquared remains highly confident in the face of tremendous opposition from the GPS community over the potential interference its planned wholesale LTE network could cause to GPS signals.

The company said it plans to begin building its network soon but just not light it up. "We can begin to roll out the network without turning it on," said Martin Harriman, executive vice president of LightSquared, in an interview with IDG News. "We will start deployments shortly, we have base stations in production, and ... our first devices are imminent."

The company believes it has all of the necessary elements in place to begin rolling out the network, except for the required approval from the FCC to begin using its spectrum. When it gets the go-ahead, the company can quickly roll out service, Harriman said.

LightSquared, along with a technical working group of GPS industry experts, submitted its final report to the FCC on potential GPS interference caused by its network. LightSquared has offered up a solution to avoid interference that proposes the company use a 10 MHz chunk of L-band spectrum that is in the lower portion of its spectrum holdings and reduce its base-station power by 50 percent. Still, the GPS community wants LightSquared to move out of the spectrum altogether, and it has been heavily lobbying Congress over the issue.

Still, Harriman said LightSquared is on track to start large-scale testing of the network at the beginning of 2012 with commercial service expected by the end of the first quarter. Qualcomm (NASDAQ:QCOM) data cards with both satellite and LTE capabilities will also be ready by September.

However, LightSquared's future isn't only in its hands. A  30-day public comment period on the technical working group's report has started along with a 15-day reply period. While this is going on, the FCC's Spectrum Policy Task Force will review that report and LightSquared's new plan to try and determine whether LightSquared can proceed with its network deployment.

Jim Kirkland, vice president and general counsel to Trimble, and a member of the Coalition to Save Our GPS, which is opposed to LightSquared's plans, said that the coalition wants the full commission vote on any proposed solution. Grace said a vote by the full commission is possible

In a separate filing from the technical working group's report, LightSquared said the GPS industry bears responsibility for the current impasse. "Despite the commercial GPS device industry's best efforts to rewrite the record and obfuscate the nature of the problem, the simple fact remains that GPS receivers do not adequately reject base station transmissions in the adjacent band," LightSquared said in its filing. "The receivers have been designed, sometimes deliberately, with the assumption that there would be no adjacent-band transmissions. While the commercial GPS device industry has offered many justifications for its design decision--justifications that are not supported by the plain facts of the FCC record or, for that matter, by the FCC--it is inescapable that this is the source of the problem of overload of GPS devices."

Kirkland and other members of the coalition disagree with LightSquared's arguments. In a conference call with reporters, Kirkland said that because LightSquared's spectrum was originally designed for satellite transmissions with an ancillary terrestrial component, GPS receivers were designed against those kinds of transmissions, and not transmissions from base stations. "Now they're saying we should have understood the rules were going to change later on, and that's just revisionist history," he said.

The technical working group report found that LightSquared's network, as currently designed, cause significant interference with GPS receivers, especially in the upper portion of LightSquared's L-band MSS spectrum. However, LightSquared and the GPS industry remain at odds over whether there can be a technical solution to the issues, and each side continues to blame the other for the state of affairs. LightSquared contends that filtering technology can mitigate GPS interference concerns, but the GPS industry maintains that such filtering technology does not yet exist and was not tested as part of the report. "If there are no filters available today to support this, then there's nothing the GPS industry could have done in the past to make this compatible," Kirkland said.

At issue is a waiver the FCC granted LightSquared in January to allow LightSquared's customers to provide terrestrial-only service in its L-band spectrum, which had previously been allocated mainly for satellite use with an ancillary terrestrial component. The spectrum sits adjacent to frequencies used by GPS receivers and the GPS community is concerned that the powerful signal produced by LightSquared's base stations will knock out GPS.

In its separate report, in which it criticized the GPS industry, LightSquared formally presented its plan to mitigate interference to the FCC. Under the proposed solution, the company will no longer launch its network in a 10 MHz chunk of its spectrum that tests showed caused interference with many GPS receivers. Instead, LightSquared said it recently inked a deal with Inmarsat, the satellite firm that controls the lower spectrum band, which will allow LightSquared to get access to the lower spectrum band--the channel from 1526 to 1536 MHz--sooner than it initially planned. LightSquared also said it will modify its FCC license to reduce the maximum authorized power of its base-station transmitters by more than 50 percent. However, representatives from the GPS industry said LightSquared's proposed solution will still cause significant interference and has not been adequately tested.

For more:
- see this IDG News article
- see this FierceWireless article
- see these links to the FCC report (PDF) (Part 1) (Part 2) (Part 3) (Part 4) (Part 5)
- see this LightSquared release
- see this LightSquared filing (PDF)
- see this Coalition to Save Our GPS release

Related articles:
U.S. officials call for more LightSquared GPS testing
LightSquared plans to submit GPS interference report by June 29
LightSquared reworks network plans to avoid GPS interference
Sprint consummates LTE network-sharing deal with LightSquared
LightSquared's GPS interference plan leaves more questions than answers
LightSquared gets extension on GPS report, inks deal on Sprint network sharing