Babbitt Says GPS Safe

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FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt said Thursday he's convinced GPS signals will be safe despite a potential interference threat from a broadband company that appears to be ramping up for a full-scale launch in the next few years. Babbitt told the annual Meet the Administrator session at AirVenture Oshkosh Thursday that the issues regarding LightSquared's plan to create a nationwide broadband network and its potential effect on GPS are well known in Washington and he expects GPS to be preserved. "I'm very comfortable in saying that we are going to protect the GPS signal," he told the AirVenture crowd of hundreds. His comments come on the heels of a report (PDF) written by the FAA's navigation section that predicts LightSquared's plan will essentially destroy GPS reception in much of the U.S. "In the next ten years, it would result in an estimated impact to the aviation community of at least $70 billion and an additional 30 million tons of CO2," the report, obtained by the Coalition to Preserve Our GPS and released to the media, says. LightSquared says it wants to talk to the FAA about the report and it also slams the GPS industry for failing to build safeguards into its products to prevent interference from signals in other frequency bands. It also announced a blockbuster deal with Sprint Nextel that doesn't look like it takes any regulatory hiccups into account.

In comments to AVweb, LightSquared's Jeff Carlisle, the director of regulatory affairs, said the company looks forward to discussing the report with the FAA and also repeated the assertion that the GPS industry reaction "shows that GPS manufacturers want to continue to avoid responsibility for selling equipment that was not designed to accommodate longstanding FCC rules." In a news release Thursday, LightSquared confirmed our report that it has reached a deal with Sprint Nextel that will allow it to use Sprint's 40,000 towers to mount its transmitters. In return, Sprint gets $4.5 billion in credits to tap into LightSquared's 4G Long Term Evolution (LTE) network.