LightSquared Changes Plans, GPS Group Unimpressed

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Monday, LightSquared proposed a new plan that would use frequencies that are controlled by the satellite company Inmarsat Plc and not use those closest to GPS frequencies, hoping to avoid most interference issues. The company's original plan had been to launch its service (which supports wireless communications) using frequencies that neighbor those of GPS. But tests mandated by the FCC found that such use could lead to interference problems for GPS users. That possibility led players in the GPS industry to form a coalition that spoke out against the plan. The Coalition to Save Our GPS is not satisfied with LightSquared's latest proposal. "LightSquared's supposed solution is nothing but a 'Hail Mary' move," said coalition spokesman Jim Kirkland. "Confining its operation to the lower MSS band still interferes with many critical GPS receivers in addition to the precision receivers that even LightSquared concedes will be affected." LightSquared's new proposal involves using a band of frequencies belonging to Inmarsat that is farther from GPS. The new plan is actually just an acceleration of the old one and the company says "a limited number of high-precision GPS receivers" could still be affected by interference.

LightSquared's original plan would have migrated service from the original set of frequencies (closer to GPS) to Inmarsat's band (farther from GPS) after the first two or three years of service. The new plan would have service initiated on Inmarsat's band. The other band will be set aside for testing mitigation plans, according to LightSquared. The company expects to have the ability to serve its customers over the next few years as its service grows. It still expects to launch service later this year. According to LightSquared Chief Executive Sanjiv Ahuja, "What's absolutely clear is American consumers absolutely need this network." Ahuja believes the new solution "ensures that tens of millions of GPS users won't be affected by LightSquared's launch." But the Coalition to Save GPS says LightSquared's plans should be considered a non-starter by the FCC. "It is time for LightSquared to move to out of the MSS band," Kirkland said.