LightSquared, Trimble to seek settlement over GPS interference disputes

In what could be the sign of a turning point in a multi-year saga, LightSquared and GPS device firm Trimble indicated that they are willing to engage in settlement discussions to resolve disputes over whether and how LightSquared's spectrum interferes with GPS receivers.

If LightSquared and the GPS firms do come to some kind of settlement over litigation and disputes before the FCC, it would represent a major turnaround after years of acrimony between the two sides.

The willingness of LightSquared and Trimble to engage in settlement talks was spelled out in a filing made by a lawyer for LightSquared in U.S. District Court in New York City. According to the filing, GPS firms Garmin and Deere are also willing to engage in settlement negotiations.

The talks also come as LightSquared is asking the FCC to transfer the company's spectrum licenses to the new LightSquared that is emerging from bankruptcy protection. Additionally, LightSquared has hired an outside adviser, Roberson and Associates, to conduct tests to determine where interference may occur between LightSquared's spectrum and how it can be resolved.

"Based on recent exchanges, LightSquared and Trimble believe there is now an opportunity for the parties to have a constructive dialogue and to engage in a process aimed at a global resolution of the pending technical issues related to the use of LightSquared spectrum that gave rise to the present disputes--including this case and ongoing proceedings before the FCC and other government agencies," LightSquared said in the filing.

LightSquared and Trimble are asking the judge in the case to grant a stay, or pause the proceedings, for 45 days. "During this period, LightSquared and Trimble would work cooperatively to engage constituencies and stakeholders to discuss ways to bring full closure to the disputes that prompted this lawsuit and their disagreements before the FCC.

Both LightSquared and Trimble say that "global discussions are necessary because the resolution of this case is necessarily bound up with resolving the pending issues before the FCC."

The parties are agreeing "to engage in discussions that necessarily will address engineering issues such as receiver susceptibility to interference, network architecture and spectrum use, and will also discuss business concerns of all parties."

LightSquared and Trimble want the court to grant a stay of their ongoing litigation because many of the key people needed for the technical discussion in settlement talks are also enmeshed in the lawsuit, which is an expensive proceeding for both sides.

Trimble "wishes to engage in discussions and therefore joins" the request to pause the lawsuit the filing stated. "Garmin and Deere have both stated that they are willing to engage in settlement discussions regarding the resolution of the disputed issues among the parties, but LightSquared does not know Garmin or Deere's final position regarding a 45-day stay," the filing states. "The [United States GPS Industry Council] has not opposed a stay."

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 GPS Innovation Alliance, for its part, was formed in 2013 to promote the interests of the GPS industry. That group said in a recent statement that it "supports a consensus-driven process, including all government and non-government stakeholders, to clearly identify and address remaining technical issues raised by LightSquared proposals to repurpose mobile satellite spectrum for terrestrial broadband use. The technical challenges posed by these proposals are formidable, as evidenced by the conclusions of multiple U.S. government entities."

A Deere spokesman declined to comment. Representatives for the GPS Innovation Alliance, Trimble and Garmin did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

For more:
- see this court filing

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