LightSquared threatens legal action over GPS interference concerns

LightSquared may choose to pursue legal action to make sure it can deploy its proposed terrestrial wholesale LTE network if concerns regarding the network's possible effect on GPS cannot be resolved, a senior executive said.

The comments came amid the latest war of words between the company and the GPS community, which has vehemently opposed LightSquared's network and has argued that LightSquared is distorting the historical record to put itself in a more favorable light. The GPS industry argues that if LightSquared operates a nationwide terrestrial network in L-Band spectrum, that signal will overwhelm GPS receivers, especially for precision GPS devices, in adjacent spectrum. LightSquared, in turn, has argued that the GPS industry should have known years ago that that it would build such a network and that GPS device manufacturers did not properly install filters on their devices to block LightSquared's signal.

"If it is impossible to get a decision on this that allows us to go forward, I think our way forward is pretty clear, that we then have to insist on our legal rights," Jeffrey Carlisle, LightSquared's vice president of regulatory affairs and public policy, said on a conference call with reporters Monday, according to IDG News Service. "If you have to be the bad guy, and go out and start ... insisting on your property line, well, then that's what we'll do."

Carlisle said the GPS community cannot be protected from the FCC's rules on interference. "You can build a receiver that looks outside your band, but if you have the effect of receiving interference from authorized services, and our service is an authorized service, you're not entitled to protection," Carlisle said.

In a statement, Jim Kirkland, vice president and general counsel of Trimble, one of the companies staunchly opposed to LightSquared's plans, said LightSquared's general counsel, Curtis Lu, had distorted the historical record. Kirkland said GPS devices made by Trimble and John Deere Co. were designed to use mobile satellite services LightSquared and Inmarsat provided, which is why they are susceptible to interference from LightSquared's proposed network.  

"More broadly, the statement's account of prior FCC decisions is inaccurate," Kirkland said. "In 2003 and 2005, the FCC only authorized terrestrial operations in the MSS band to fill in the footprint of a satellite service. The FCC reaffirmed that this was all that was authorized as recently as March 2010 in the national broadband plan. FCC rules also did not allow the terrestrial-only broadband services LightSquared now wants to provide. The 2004 FCC filing that Mr. Lu cites was made in the context of what the FCC actually permitted then, not what LightSquared is proposing today."

In an earlier statement, Lu said that "the truth is that [the GPS industry] has known about the vulnerability of its devices for nearly a decade." He also said that "the only question left is: Who pays for the remaining devices that need a fix? Does the GPS industry believe it bears no fiscal responsibility for a problem that is of its own making? Or will it act responsibly and do as other industries have done when they go to market with a deficient device--offer a recall and fix the problem at its own expense?"

LightSquared needs FCC approval to turn on its network, and the FCC declared that more tests are needed to sort out GPS interference concerns. The FCC gave no timetable in its public notice for when its requested tests will be completed.

For more:
- see this IDG News Service article
- see this LightSquared release
- see this Trimble release

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