LightSquared Lining Up Customers, Coalition Attracting Support

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Although the issue of interference with GPS seems to be far from resolved, LightSquared is busy lining up customers for its new broadband network. The company issued a news release Tuesday saying that voice over Internet protocol (VOIP) firm netTALK has entered into a "multi-year wholesale agreement" to buy bandwidth from LightSquared. "We are extremely excited to provide netTALK with access to the wireless broadband capabilities of the LightSquared network," said Sanjiv Ahuja, chairman and chief executive officer of LightSquared. "This agreement reaffirms LightSquared's commitment to enable new and innovative companies such as netTALK to compete in the U.S. wireless market." Of course, the availability of that signal is the subject of an increasingly contentious battle with the GPS industry, which claims LightSquared's network of 40,000 towers blasting high-powered signals in a frequency band close to the minute satellite signals used by GPS receivers will effectively destroy GPS. The lobby group formed to fight LightSquared's plans, the Coalition to Save Our GPS, announced more members as it gears for a fight that will be kicked off Friday with the release of a report on the interference issues.

It's already been reported by some of the groups involved in the testing that LightSquared's plan will cause unacceptable GPS service disruptions and LightSquared has countered that GPS devices can effectively be hardened against the interference at minimal cost for newly manufactured devices. Retrofitting is another matter and aviation would be among the sectors hardest hit by those expenses because of the tens of thousands of pricey panel-mounted GPS-dependent avionics already in use. After the report is issued on Friday, the FCC will issue a determination on LightSquared's plan and there will be a comment period.