LightSquared still jousting with GPS Innovation Alliance over interference testing

Even though LightSquared and GPS device firm Trimble have indicated that they are willing to engage in settlement talks, the wireless firm continues to spar with a group of GPS industry companies over interference testing between LightSquared's spectrum and GSP receivers.

As part of its emergence from bankruptcy protection, LightSquared has been seeking approval from the FCC to transfer its spectrum licenses to its new corporate incarnation. As part of that effort, LightSquared has contracted with an outside adviser, Roberson and Associates, a consulting firm that specializes in spectrum and RF measurements and analysis, to conduct tests to determine where interference may occur between LightSquared's spectrum and how it can be resolved. Reed Hundt, a former FCC chairman who is now an attorney representing LightSquared, has said he has asked the U.S. Department of Transportation to encourage GPS firms Trimble, Garmin and John Deere to submit to Dennis Roberson & Associates, on a confidential basis, business and technical information for the study.

The GPS Innovation Alliance, a group formed in 2013 to promote the interests of the GPS industry, told the FCC in a filing made public this week that it essentially considers the testing being conducted by Roberson to be duplicative.

The group said it "does not support duplicative testing and wishes to make clear that it will focus its technical efforts on the government assessment of adjacent-band compatibility issues that is currently being conducted by the Department of Transportation. If and when LightSquared submits technical analyses for the record, GPSIA will comment at that time."

The GPS group also noted that the DoT "has initiated an Adjacent Band Compatibility study and is expected to release a draft test plan as part of its study shortly. It is GPSIA's understanding that federal stakeholders -- including NTIA, the Department of Defense and the Commission -- have provided DoT with feedback on the proposed test plan. When DoT publishes the test plan in the Federal Register, all interested parties -- federal and non-federal entities -- will have a further and complete opportunity to provide feedback so that DoT is fully informed about how tests should be conducted. Indeed, DoT has already conducted several workshops on this topic and stakeholders -- including LightSquared -- have actively participated in those workshops."

Further, the group also thinks the LightSquared-commissioned tests "would reinvent any number of test methods and acceptance criteria" and that its "test plan focuses on a unilateral sampling of key performance indicators ("KPIs") of questionable relevance."

In response, LightSquared told the FCC that it is pushing forward with its own testing and had reached out the GPS industry for their input. LightSquared said the GPSIA "has now made clear that despite ample opportunity to do so, it does not wish to provide useful input or help to the Roberson testing. While input from GPSIA and its members was solicited in the spirit of openness and transparency, Roberson is proceeding with testing devices that are most representative of each category of GPS devices, and thus the most significant portions of the market for such devices, as planned."

LightSquared said it hopes the DoT's testing, "if done right can contribute to the understanding that will be promoted by the Roberson study. We would note, however, as GPSIA does, that the initial DoT testing plan was released in December 2012, and so far not a single device has yet been tested, nor has any end date of testing been identified."

Additionally, LightSquared said that the GPSIA's "characterization of the Roberson testing as using standards 'of questionable relevance' is wholly incorrect."

"GPSIA provides no specific criticisms of any of the standards proposed by Roberson that would allow substantiation of such a claim," LightSquared said. "For example, GPSIA does not explain how anyone would consider a measure such as position error to be of 'questionable relevance' to the performance of a GPS device, the primary purpose of which is to report position to a user. GPSIA apparently prefers 'internationally agreed' standards, but provides no detail at all as to what standards it means. Assuming GPSIA is again referring to a standard based on an increase in the noise floor, GPSIA fails to address the detailed explanation already provided by the undersigned that this measurement is wholly inappropriate as a measure of harmful interference and is not, in fact, used by any standards body as a measure of harmful interference for bands adjacent to GPS."

LightSquared initially launched in 2010 with the goal of building a nationwide wireless LTE network that other companies could use in order to offer their own services to customers. The company signed up around 40 wholesale customers to the plan. However, LightSquared entered bankruptcy protection in May 2012 after the FCC revoked its conditional license to operate because of unresolved concerns that LightSquared's planned LTE-based network in the L-band would interfere with GPS receivers. LightSquared vigorously contested that move.

To mitigate GPS interference concerns, in the fall of 2012, LightSquared submitted a request to the FCC to combine the 5 MHz it uses for satellite service at 1670-1675 MHz with frequencies in the 1675-1680 MHz band, currently used by National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) weather balloons. The company would share the NOAA spectrum rather than gain exclusive rights to it. LightSquared would then agree not to deploy a terrestrial network in the 1545-1555 MHz downlink part of the L Band.

The American Meteorological Society and the National Weather Association told the FCC this week that they would "encourage careful deliberation regarding the options and their consequences before any decision is made regarding sharing of the 1675-1695 MHz radio spectrum band between current meteorological and hydrological users and terrestrial broadband wireless."

LightSquared said it "agrees that any sharing of this spectrum must ensure that NOAA and the National Weather Service can carry out the critical functions described by AMS and NWA. In January and April of 2014, LightSquared filed studies by Alion Science & Technology showing that sharing of the spectrum and protecting NOAA GOES earth stations is technically feasible. Recently, LightSquared has undertaken additional close study of the spectrum, including services received by non-NOAA entities, and plans to file a further study shortly, providing further assurance that the critical operations described by AMS and NWA can be protected."

For more:
- see this GPS Innovation Alliance filing
- see this LightSquared response to the GPS Innovation Alliance
- see this American Meteorological Society filing
- see this LightSquared response to the American Meteorological Society

Related articles:
LightSquared, Trimble to seek settlement over GPS interference disputes
LightSquared, GPS Innovation Alliance spar over spectrum, power levels, interference and more
LightSquared to GPS industry: Work with us on interference testing or stop complaining
LightSquared hires advisers to help overcome GPS industry concerns
Verizon's former CEO and a former FCC chairman push LightSquared's case directly to FCC's Wheeler
LightSquared could target first responders, transport and energy industries with new service

Correction, Aug. 20, 2015: This article incorrectly stated that the GPS Innovation Alliance is pushing ahead with its own tests. In fact, LightSquared is doing so.