New LightSquared, Same Agenda, Billions at Stake

July 22, 2015  - By
3 Comments
Image: GPS World

In a late June filing with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), Lightsquared asked the agency to reassign its spectrum licenses — which were at the root of a prolonged dispute in 2010 and 2011, and have never been fully utilized —  to a new licensee that would be wholly owned by a new company, New LightSquared. This is part of LightSquared’s efforts to re-emerge from bankruptcy.

LightSquared wants to resume its own interference testing scheme, floated in 2011 after an independent, collaborative effort found ample LightSquared interference with GPS. The company has contracted with Roberson and Associates, a technology consulting firm, to develop its interference study.

LightSquared is being represented before the FCC by Reed Hundt, a former FCC chairman who served from 1993 to 1997.

LightSquared listed 28 different GPS receivers and related devices that it wants to test for interference with its terrestrial mobile broadband service. The devices include certified and non-certified aviation receivers and avionics equipment, general location, cell phones and 13 different high-precision clocks and receivers.

Hundt specificaly identifed three companies — Trimble, Garmin, and John Deere — that he wants to come forward and provide proprietary technical and business information “in confidence” to tester Roberson. In statements to the FCC, Hundt twice used the phrase “speak now or forever hold your peace.”

In March of this year, LightSquared obtained U.S. court permission to exit bankruptcy protection, which it entered in 2012. At that time, the FCC had concluded, after lengthy testing, hearings, charges and countercharges, that the wireless broadband service  proposed by LightSquared would interfere with GPS signals and associated positioning, navigation, and timing.

New LightSquared reportedly has $1.25 billion in operating funds to help “make full use of its spectrum to provide existing and innovative services.”

In a recent trial involving the assets of the bankrupt company, the value of its spectrum bands was estimated at possibly $4.5 billion or higher.

GPS Industry Response. The GPS Innovation Alliance responded in early July to media reports on LightSquared’s position regarding the testing of the compatibility of terrestrial broadband and GPS.

Following is the GPS Innovation Alliance’s response:

“The GPS Innovation Alliance (GPSIA) 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. Specifically, the U.S. Departments of Defense and Transportation and the NTIA have all found in the last several years that LightSquared’s proposals have significant potential to interfere with GPS.

“Contrary to LightSquared’s recent suggestions, this is not simply a private matter between three GPS companies and LightSquared, but is important to all GPS users who rely on this critical technology every day. The Department of Transportation has sponsored an ongoing effort to assess adjacent band issues, and the GPS industry is actively engaged with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), Department of Transportation (DOT) and other government stakeholders to drive consensus around next steps.

“While we welcome the participation of LightSquared consultants, any further analysis of the technical issues should be informed by input from all of the relevant stakeholders, rather than the one-off efforts of an interested party.”

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About the Author:


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

3 Comments on "New LightSquared, Same Agenda, Billions at Stake"

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  1. William K. says:

    The potential for interference with the vital GPS service far outweighs the profits to be made by providing a service that nobody needs. The far bigger question is why did the FCC ever consider allowing the use of that portion of the spectrum by anybody. WHAT WERE THEY THINKING???
    OR, has profit for some become more important than the public well being?

  2. Noel N says:

    To a large extent the issue is the width of the spectrum currently needed for reliable use of GPS. A lot of legacy equipment cannot filter out neighboring ‘noise’. Ashjaee, who is likely one of the foremost innovators in GPS, at the previous go round had that figured out.
    However not all of us, especially surveyors who preponderantly work in small outfits, can afford to trade up to the latest and greatest.
    But that does lead credence to LightSquared’s attempts to maximize the use of the bandwidth, and make some serious money. However Javad has a big stake in Russia and with the relaxation of ties with Iran may well reestablish ties there. Which may well be why Light Squared left him off their small list. Evidently Trimble and Garmin have, Leica surely has too, but not being American was not invited to the party.
    It is a mixed bag of choices, but the big dog is the GPS Command. They need to be heard, and they need to make the decision, not Congress.
    We may have to double down and upgrade.

  3. Michael M says:

    As an “outsider” to this process (I live in the United Kingdom), I do wonder how the FCC ever allowed this mess to develop. It is beyond me how someone in authority in that organisation did not realize (or was not forcefully told) that a hundred pages of policy will not change even one law of physics.

    I watched the last LightSquared debacle with a sense of incredulity and frustration. The fact that this game is now making it to Round 2 is getting a little tedious.

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