GPS Firms Should Pay To Prevent Interference: LightSquared

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LightSquared says the GPS industry should pay to shield its devices from interference its proposed network of wireless internet transmitters might cause. On Thursday, the company launched a counteroffensive in the increasingly acrimonious battle over the bandwidth it hopes to use for the nationwide wireless network of 40,000 towers. The GPS industry says tests prove the broadband network will disrupt GPS signals and is urging authorities to reject LightSquared's proposal. LightSquared released an economic impact study (PDF) done by the Brattle Group last week suggesting the GPS industry has been and continues to be heavily subsidized in that the timing signals used in their devices are owned, operated and maintained by the federal government through the Department of Defense. Its line of logic goes on to suggest that GPS manufacturers should be willing to invest the money to shield their devices from the interference generated by the LightSquared signals. In fact, in a news release (PDF) accompanying the report, the Brattle Group suggests that it's the GPS devices that are infringing on LightSquared's bandwidth by not being adequately shielded. "Fixing this problem through the deployment of better filters in GPS devices will add some costs to the GPS industry, but those costs would only be a fraction of the $120 billion in benefits that would be created by LightSquared's deployment of its LTE network," the news release said. It says filters would add only 30 cents to the cost of a new GPS device but acknowledges that retrofitting would be substantially more costly. The study was released as two congressional committees waded into the dispute last Thursday and may have prevented the FCC from approving the LightSquared proposal.

The House Appropriations Committee, with strong bipartisan support, passed a motion to insert language in a spending bill that bars the FCC from spending any money on LightSquared's proposal until the company can unequivocally prove that GPS interference can be completely avoided. The Senate still has to pass the spending bill and the president still has to sign it for it to become law but analysts say it would be unusual for them to get in the way of something like this. Meanwhile, the final report on interference testing, which was supposed to be completed by June 15, is now expected July 1, after the FCC granted LightSquared a two-week extension.