A report released by the US Department of Transportation and Department of Defense on December 14th predicts that a new broadband internet service proposed by LightSquared could interfere with GPS navigation services. If LightSquared devices cause significant performance degradation to nearby GPS navigation devices, it could represent a serious safety risk to systems that rely on GPS navigation, such as commercial aircraft and ships. Such safety considerations could influence whether or not the network receives approval, which is still pending from the Federal Communication Commission (FCC).
The report is based on a study conducted by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) this year, which found that approximately 75% of handheld GPS devices tested “experienced harmful interference” within 100m of a LightSquared base station. The findings of the report contradict results from a previous study commissioned by LightSquared, which had claimed that concerns over GPS services being disrupted were unwarranted.
In response to the December 14th report, LightSquared CEO Sanjiv Ahuja said that the company would “work with the FAA on addressing the one remaining issue regarding terrain avoidance systems.” He refuted the claims that the LightSquared system was infringing on the GPS band, saying that ”that the interference issues are not caused by LightSquared’s spectrum, but by GPS devices looking into spectrum that is licensed to LightSquared.”
An earlier version of the report had been leaked on December 12, and had included details on the percentage of devices that experienced interference. At that time, Ahuja had drafted a letter to government officials, saying the leaked report was an “incomplete, selective and slanted analysis of the testing of general location/navigation devices”, and had called for an investigation into the source of the leak.
LightSquared, a US-based company, aims to create a next-generation 4G wireless network that would provide internet service to the entire United States using satellite broadband communications, as part of the FCC’s National Broadband Plan. The LightSquared website estimates that the deployment of such a network could create up to 15,000 jobs, directly and indirectly, each year until 2015. The network, which is set to operate at the 1545-1555 MHz band, has already attracted over 3 billion USD in investments.
The video below shows Sen. Chuck Grassley speaking on the US Senate floor about concerns over the LightSquared system and transparency of the investigations.