LightSquared presses FCC for stricter GPS device standards

Wholesale LTE provider LightSquared asked the FCC to start a rulemaking that would set stricter reliability standards for unlicensed commercial GPS devices that receive signals in the 1559-1610 MHz band, which is next to LightSquared's L-band spectrum.

"LightSquared has an interest in establishing these standards in order to ensure that Radionavigation-Satellite Service (RNSS) receivers perform as intended, taking into account licensed operations in adjacent spectrum bands--including the 1525-1559 MHz and 1626.6-1660.5 MHz bands in which LightSquared is authorized to operate," LightSquared said in its filing with the FCC.

The request cuts to the heart of the dispute over GPS interference concerns between the L-band and GPS receivers. LightSquared contends that GPS receivers have been poorly designed and do not have the necessary filters to block out LightSquared's signal, since GPS devices "look into" LightSquared's spectrum. However, the GPS industry has mounted a fierce lobbying campaign against LightSquared, and has argued that GPS receivers should not have been designed in anticipation that LightSquared would launch a nationwide terrestrial mobile broadband network, as it intends to do.

"Two rounds of testing by independent and government entities have confirmed that the interference experienced by the commercial GPS receivers is the result of an industry decision to design and sell poorly filtered devices that purposefully depend on spectrum licensed to LightSquared for accuracy," LightSquared said in a statement. "If sensible standards were in place, the GPS industry would not be facing the current interference problems and consumers would benefit from a more efficient use of spectrum."

An FCC spokeswoman declined to comment on LightSquared's petition, according to Bloomberg.

Jim Kirkland, vice president and general counsel of Trimble, a founding member of the Coalition to Save Our GPS, which is opposed to LightSquared's plans, said in a statement that LightSquared's petition "proceeds from the same false premises and claims that LightSquared has repeated ad nauseam in its ongoing effort to deny its obligation to avoid harmful interference to millions of government and private GPS users."

Even if the FCC were to consider the kind of rulemaking LightSquared wants, it would likely take months or years before it was finalized.

Meanwhile, a separate process at the FCC is continuing and government GPS interference tests are still ongoing. 

The FCC said last month that it will take public comment on a LightSquared petition until Feb. 27, with follow-up responses due by March 13. In December LightSquared petitioned the FCC to declare that GPS device makers are at fault for interference caused between LightSquared's L-band spectrum and GPS receivers, and that LightSquared, a licensed spectrum holder, should be allowed to launch commercial service as quickly as possible. The National Telecommunications and Information Administration is still analyzing its own GPS interference tests and will report its findings to the FCC, which will then make a final determination if LightSquared can proceed.

Pressure is mounting on LightSquared, which is losing money and could lose its network-buildout deal with Sprint Nextel.

For more:
- see this release
- see this Bloomberg article
- see this GigaOM article

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