Canada, US workshops focus on PNT threats

October 26, 2016  - By

Two workshops convened in recent weeks in the U.S. and Canadian capitals, respectively, sought to bring into focus looming threats to the nations’ positioning, navigation and timing capabilities and critical infrastructures. Some of the threats are pervasive — jamming and spoofing — and formed the general topic of the Canadian workshop. Some threats are specific — powerful terrestrial transmitters overwhelming GPS/GNSS receivers — and occasioned the U.S. gathering.

Canada. In a first for Canada, the October 21 GNSS Vulnerabilities Innovation Policy (VIP) Workshop brought together 19 federal government departments as well as  provincial and municipal agencies and private sector companies.  U.S. State Dept. and Homeland Security gave presentations, as did the European Space Agency, Bell Canada, NovAtel and Spirent Communications.

Integrity challenge for automotive positioning, presented by NovAtel

Integrity challenge for automotive positioning, presented by NovAtel

The workshop was sponsored by the the Federal Global Navigation Satellite Systems Coordination Board (FGCB), a government board with representations from various government departments and agencies. The GNSS Coordination Office (which organized the workshop) is hosted at Canada’s Ministry of Innovation, Science and Economic Development and sponsored by the FGCB members.

Presentations covered such topics as Demonstration of the Geolocation of GPS Jammers, GNSS & the Telecom Sector, Detecting and Protecting Against GPS Cyberthreats, and Safety Critical, High Precision, GNSS Positioning for Autonomous Vehicles.

United States. The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) hosted its fifth workshop on the GPS Adjacent-Band Compatibility Assessment effort on October 14. This lengthy, thorny and occasionally acrimonious process started out benignly enough in 2010 with the statement, “Demand for commercial spectrum to support broadband wireless communications has led the government to consider repurposing various radio frequencies, including the satellite communications bands next to GPS.”

The workshop discussed the results from testing of various categories of GPS/GNSS receivers including aviation (non-certified), cellular, general location/navigation, high precision and networks, timing, and space-based receivers. The workshop also included a discussion on the development of use-case scenarios for these categories — which is where the going got heavy and differences of opinion truly emerged.

DOT has posted all presentations from the workshop.  Scroll down to “October 2016 Workshop.”

The furor stems from a renewed effort by Ligado, formerly known as LightSquared and now re-emergent from a 2-year bankruptcy process, to convert relatively inexpensive satellite-to-earth spectrum into very valuable terrestrial spectrum. The company stands to gain billions of dollars and secured rights from the process.

Members of the DoT team presented the first results from the GPS Adjacent-Band Compatibility (ABC) Assessment, an effort to determine the power limits by frequency, or interference tolerance masks (ITM), needed to protect both existing and future GPS receivers. Test results indicated a need to limit interfering signals at different levels depending on the type of receiver being used. 80 receivers in six categories were tested: cellular, general location/navigation, general aviation, timing, high precision and space receivers. Certified and military receivers are undergoing separate tests.

The tests of current receivers took place April 25–29 at White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico, using a 100 x 70 x 40 anechoic chamber. The signals used in the test included GPS L1 C/A-code, GPS L1 P-code, GPS L1C, GPS L1 M-code, GPS L2 P-code, SBAS L1, GLONASS L1 C, GLONASS L1 P, BeiDou B1I and Galileo E1 B/C. Tests were conducted within 100 megahertz on either side of the GPS L1 center frequency of 1575.42 using a 10-megahertz LTE signal and a narrow bandwidth 1-megahertz bandpass white noise signal.

The tests were conducted for GPS and GNSS receivers processing signals in the 1559–1610 MHz Radionavigation Satellite Service (RNSS) frequency band, as well as receivers that process Mobile Satellite Service (MSS) signals in the 1525–1559 MHz band to receive differential GNSS corrections.

The tests determined the power levels at which each device experienced a one-decibel degradation in the carrier-to-noise density ratio (CNR) at a particular frequency. The DoT team graphed results for each device. The recommended power limits were the lowest in frequencies closest to the GPS bands.

The receivers most affected by the test transmissions were identified as high-precision receivers. They experienced interference at power levels as low as –90 to –95dBm at around 1550 MHz and –90 dBm at roughly 1610 MHz.


The strictest limit for both the general aviation, general navigation/location, and timing receivers was a little below –80 dBm at about 1550 MHz, while space-based receivers were equally sensitive on both sides of the RNSS band with the toughest limit being about –85 dBm.

FAA. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has authority to set power and out-of-band emissions limits to meet aviation safety standards, and it had been thought that these limits might  address interference with other types of receivers as well. But the test results showed that “protecting the FAA-certified mask does not necessarily protect the rest of the receiver categories,” according to Hadi Wassaf, technical lead for GPS interference analysis at DoT’s Volpe Center.

Use Cases. Ligado has proposed that position error as experienced by the user is a better guide to interference levels than degradation in the carrier-to-noise density ratio. The GPS community generally opposes this approach. The next step is the development of use cases. According to the test plan, use cases define the regions of operations for a receiver, and they identify applications that “that are vital to economic, public safety, scientific, and/or national security needs and any other factors supporting why this particular receiver model is important to be tested (e.g., quantity in use, economic impact, etc.).”

About the Author: Alan Cameron

Alan Cameron is the former editor-at-large of GPS World magazine.