FCC Puts the Kibosh on LightSquared After Finding Significant Interferance with GPS

This is good news for boaters and everyone else who relies on GPS for navigation and safety equipment.

U.S. officials plan to kill a proposal to build a new national high-speed wireless network after concluding it would in some cases jam personal-navigation and other GPS devices.

The Federal Communications Commission sought comments last week on revoking LightSquared’s permit after a federal agency that coordinates wireless signals, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, concluded that there’s no way to eliminate the risk of interference with GPS devices.

The FCC had seen LightSquared’s proposal as a way to make more airwaves available to feed consumers’ appetites for movies, music and games on a variety of mobile devices.

Makers of GPS devices and those who rely on them feared that GPS signals would suffer the way a radio station can get drowned out by a stronger broadcast in a nearby channel. The problem is that sensitive GPS receivers, designed to pick up relatively weak signals from space, could be overwhelmed by high-power signals from as many as 40,000 LightSquared transmitters on the ground. LightSquared planned to transmit on a frequency adjacent to that used by GPS.When the FCC gave LightSquared tentative approval last year to build the network, it said the company wouldn’t be allowed to start operations until the government was satisfied that any problems are addressed. LightSquared and the FCC had insisted the new network could co-exist with GPS systems.

After government and industry groups conducted tests, the NTIA said Tuesday that it found interference with dozens of personal-navigation devices and aircraft-control systems that rely on GPS.

The agency said that new technology in the future might mitigate the problems, but it would take time and money to replace GPS equipment already used extensively in the U.S. The NTIA, a branch of the Commerce Department, also said adjustments to LightSquared’s network could cost billions of dollars and might not solve all of the problems.

LightSquared, which is based in Reston, Virginia, chastised the FCC for withdrawing approval after the company had already spent nearly $4 billion.

For the complete story, go to www.npr.com.

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