U.S. officials call for more LightSquared GPS testing

During a congressional hearing, lawmakers and officials from federal agencies called for more testing of LightSquared's LTE network to ensure that it does not interfere with GPS receivers. However, officials said they are still hopeful they can find a solution that will allow LightSquared to proceed with its network buildout while not harming GPS.

Rep. Thomas Petri (R.-Wisc.), chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee's subcommittee on aviation, said lawmakers "may request" that the FCC "allow time for full, comprehensive testing" of LightSquared's proposed network workaround to mitigate interference. He also said it is critical that aviation safety be maintained and that the FCC "does not approve plans that would introduce unacceptable risk into the aviation system or leave aviation GPS users with new, costly burdens."

Under LightSquared's proposed solution, the company will no longer launch its network in a 10 MHz chunk of its spectrum that tests showed caused interference with many GPS receivers. Instead, LightSquared said it recently inked a deal with Inmarsat, the satellite firm that controls the lower 1526 to 1536 MHz spectrum band, that will allow LightSquared to get access to the lower spectrum band sooner than it initially planned. LightSquared also said it will modify its FCC license to reduce the maximum authorized power of its base-station transmitters by more than 50 percent. Key players in the GPS industry, including Garmin, Trimble and Deere & Co., remain skeptical about the proposed solution.

"We have now tested one proposal here, and we found unfortunately that it did not work as originally hoped," said Roy Kienitz, the Department of Transportation's undersecretary for policy. "That does not mean the story is over. Our goal at DOT is to look for a win-win where we can have much better broadband service nationwide, but to do so without disrupting GPS and vital services it provides."

LightSquared seemed intent on reassuring those at the hearing that it does not plan to move forward with its network until the issue is resolved. "I want to be absolutely direct, clear and unequivocal: LightSquared has no intention of operating its system in any way that will compromise government or commercial aviation or maritime operations in the United States, nor do we believe the FCC would ever allow us to do so," said Jeffrey Carlisle, LightSquared's executive vice president of regulatory affairs.

LightSquared expects to submit a final report to the FCC on GPS interference tests by June 29.

For more:
- see this WSJ article (sub. req.)
- see this Bloomberg article
- see this Reuters article

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