LightSquared faces new roadblock after U.S. study finds GPS interference

Wholesale LTE provider LightSquared faces new challenges to its plans to deploy its network after a federal advisory panel said on Friday that LightSquared's proposed network continues to interfere with GPS receivers and that no further testing is needed as a result. However, LightSquared sharply criticized the advisory board's work as "unfair and shrouded from the public eye" and threatened potential litigation over the issue.

In a letter to the sent to Lawrence Strickling, head of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, which is conducting tests of LightSquared's network, the National Space-Based Position, Navigation, and Timing Advisory Board said that testing of both LightSquared's original network plans and subsequent modifications show that LightSquared's proposed terrestrial network still presents harmful interference to GPS receivers. The panel advises the federal government on GPS issues.

"There appear to be no practical solutions or mitigations that would permit the LightSquared broadband service, as proposed, to operate in the next few months or years without significantly interfering with GPS," Ashton Carter, deputy secretary of defense, and John Porcari, deputy secretary of transportation, wrote in the letter. "As a result, no additional testing is warranted at this time."

The decision of the advisory panel is not binding, and the NTIA is still conducting its own analysis. The NTIA said the panel's recommendation with "help inform" its decision before it makes its recommendations to the FCC.

LightSquared blasted the advisory panel as being too close to the GPS industry and for not testing filtering solutions proposed by LightSquared to mitigate GPS interference. "LightSquared today urges the government, under the leadership of the FCC and NTIA to recommit to a fair and transparent process," Terry Neal, a LightSquared spokesman, said in a statement. "Test results must be re-evaluated by unbiased officials and engineers. Testing must proceed in cooperation with all parties--LightSquared, government end-users, and GPS manufacturers--to ensure effective and appropriate guidelines are in place."

Meanwhile, while LightSquared's network sits in regulatory limbo, the company keeps on signing up wholesale customers. LightSquared inked a wholesale deal with Hometown Telecom, a carrier specializing in low-cost long distance calls to India. The deal is LightSquared's 37th wholesale agreement.

For more:
- see this letter (PDF)
- see this WSJ article (sub. req.)
- see this Bloomberg article
- see this LightSquared release
- see this Coalition release

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