LightSquared blasts U.S. GPS interference tests, says Sprint is in the loop

Wholesale LTE provider LightSquared called recent test results from a federal GPS advisory board biased, and asked federal agencies to look at the company objectively and proceed with high-precision GPS interference testing. The company also said it remains in contact with Sprint Nextel (NYSE:S) about their network-hosting partnership, but declined to speculate on the future of their deal beyond January.

In a conference call Wednesday with reporters, LightSquared executives as well as Edmond Thomas, formerly the chief engineer at the FCC who is now a paid consultant for LightSquared, blasted the testing results reported late last week by the National Space-Based Positioning, Navigation, and Timing Executive Committee. Jeff Carlisle, LightSquared's executive vice president of regulatory affairs, said the advisory board's test results were rigged to be biased against LightSquared. The tests concluded that LightSquared's proposed terrestrial network still presents harmful interference to GPS receivers.

Specifically, LightSquared said the tests:

  • were not transparent;
  • included discontinued or niche market devices with poor filters or no filters;
  • and the advisory board selected "an extremely conservative" definition of failure, or one dB of interference. Carlisle said that such a threshold can only be detected in laboratory testing and has no impact on GPS positional accuracy or user experience.

Geoff Stern, LightSquared's vice president of spectrum development, called on the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, which is conducting its own tests of LightSquared's network, to review the advisory board's tests and acknowledge the company's complaints. LightSquared also asked the NTIA to begin testing high-precision GPS devices and be fully transparent with its results.

An NTIA spokeswoman told FierceWireless that the agency's "analysis is still underway and we are examining the full range of scenarios so that we can make a final recommendation that is informed by the facts. We continue to work in consultation with the FCC, government agencies, and industry and we are working to address the issues promptly and conclusively. Our job is to serve as an honest broker of the facts and data."

She said that NTIA "plans to ultimately develop a recommendation based on our analysis of the data" and that the advisory board's findings will help inform its final recommendation. NTIA has not said when it will begin high-precision GPS testing. The NTIA will make a recommendation to the FCC, which must sign off on LightSquared's network before the company can proceed. Such a process could take some time, and Stern said LightSquared has enough money to last several quarters.

As for LightSquared's deal with Sprint, Carlisle said that LightSquared remains in contact with Sprint about the situation. Sprint gave LightSquared until Jan. 31 to receive approval from the FCC to commence terrestrial operations. "We'll continue to look at alternatives with Sprint assuming this goes past the end of January," Carlisle said.

LightSquared has signed wholesale agreements with 37 companies, and Carlisle was asked whether those companies are going to wait indefinitely for LightSquared to receive FCC approval. "Obviously, they would like us to get up and running as soon as possible," he said. The alternative, he said, is for LightSquared's wholesale customers to turn to companies that would charge them higher prices. 

For more:
- see this release

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