The System: New LightSquared, Same Agenda, Billions at Stake

August 1, 2015  - By
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New LightSquared, Same Agenda, Billions at Stake

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.”

Tenth GPS Block II Follow-On Satellite Rises Above

This one’s in orbit now. Photo shows the nose cone containing GPS IIF-10 being lowered into position atop the launch vehicle, inside the rocket gantry at Cape Canaveral.

This one’s in orbit now. Photo shows the nose cone containing GPS IIF-10 being lowered into position atop the launch vehicle, inside the rocket gantry at Cape Canaveral.

The tenth GPS IIF satellite lifted off from the Space Launch Complex (SLC)-41 at Cape Canaveral, Fla., on schedule at 11:36 local time (15:36 UTC) — at the start of a nineteen-minute window.

Later that same day, United Launch Alliance (ULA) officials declared the launch mission a success. The Centaur upper stage completed its second burn and released the GPS IIF-10 satellite into the navigation network to complete the launch of the Atlas 5 rocket.

This is the second of three GPS constellation replenishment flights planned in 2015. The first launch, of GPS IIF-9 using a Delta IV rocket, occurred on March 25. A third launch, of GPS IIF-11 using an Atlas rocket, is scheduled for Sept. 22. The launch of GPS IIF-12 is scheduled for Jan. 26, 2016.

The Boeing-built GPS IIF-10 is one of the next-generation GPS satellites, incorporating various improvements to provide greater accuracy, increased signals, and enhanced performance for users. GPS IIF-10 was the 70th spacecraft to be launched as part of the GPS constellation and the tenth in the Block IIF series that began launching in May 2010.

GPS IIF-10 marks the 55th Atlas V launch since the vehicle’s inaugural launch in 2002 and the 27th flight of the 401 configuration. Every operational GPS mission has launched on a United Launch Alliance or heritage rocket. While the government has certified ULA competitor SpaceX for GPS III launches, a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket exploded June 29, two minutes after launch of an International Space Station resupply mission.

The Boeing-built GPS IIF satellites provide improved signals to support both the warfighter and the growing civilian needs of the global economy, the U.S. Air Force said in a statement. The GPS IIF satellites will provide improved accuracy through advanced atomic clocks, a longer design life than previous GPS satellites, and a new operational third civil signal (L5) that benefits commercial aviation and safety-of-life applications. It will also continue to deploy the modernized capabilities that began with the GPS IIR satellites, including a more robust military signal.

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