[time-nuts] LightSquared's Wireless Network Interferes With GPS

J. Forster jfor at quik.com
Thu Jun 2 03:14:02 UTC 2011

>From the WSJ:


LightSquared's Wireless Network Interferes With GPS


WASHINGTON—LightSquared's plan to launch a new national wireless broadband
network faces a setback as preliminary tests suggest the start-up's
network could knock out some GPS systems.

Harbinger's Philip Falcone shown at an investor conference last month.

LightSquared's interference problems could slow down FCC approval of its
new network and create problems for other companies – including its
primary financial backer, Harbinger Capital Partners, the hedge fund led
by Philip Falcone. Harbinger and its affiliates have put $2.9 billion of
assets into LightSquared, according to a LightSquared statement.

Harbinger has run into a series of other problems recently, as investors
have withdrawn money and regulators have probed certain of the firm's
trades from several years ago as well as a loan made by the fund to Mr.
Falcone in 2009, which has been repaid. The company has said it is
cooperating with regulators

The airwaves Lightsquare uses are located close to the airwaves used by
satellite navigation systems, and GPS users—particularly the military and
police—worry the company's plan to install 40,000 antennas around the
country will overpower GPS signals. GPS signals are used for navigation
and location systems for vehicles, aircraft and defense and public-safety

LightSquared has signed deals with a number of companies, including Best
Buy Co. and Leap Wireless International Inc., to offer wholesale wireless
Internet service, and had originally planned to launch limited service
later this year. Delays for LightSquared also could be a problem for AT&T
Inc., which has cited LightSquared as a viable competitor to regulators in
the antitrust review of its $39 billion deal to acquire T-Mobile USA.

LightSquared officials acknowledge their network could knock out some GPS
systems but say that they've developed technical fixes that could solve
the problem. "LightSquared and GPS can and will be able to coexist
peacefully," said Jeff Carlisle, LightSquared's executive vice president
for regulatory affairs and public policy on Wednesday. "We're committed to
identifying and resolving the issues through this process."

Later this month, the company and GPS makers are scheduled to deliver a
planned report to the Federal Communications Commission about any
interference issues that arose from tests held recently in New Mexico.

Public safety officials near the testing area reported LightSquared's
tower knocked out their GPS systems in some areas, according to Bill
Range, New Mexico's E-911 program director, in a letter to federal
officials. On Friday, construction giant Deere & Co. also reported to the
FCC the risk of "severe interference" on its tractors GPS systems from as
far as 20 miles away from a LightSquared tower and "a complete loss of
service" between four miles and 22 miles.

Initial, unofficial tests by GPS users suggest that high-performance GPS
equipment used by the aviation, defense and other industries would be more
likely to be hobbled by LightSquared's network than the cheaper devices
used by most consumers.

If existing GPS equipment needs to be fixed to avoid interference, it's
not clear who would pay for those alternations.

LightSquared's airwaves were originally set aside for satellite use but in
January the FCC agreed to allow the company to build a terrestrial-only
network. LightSquared plans to operate a wholesale network that would
lease airwaves to other carriers that want to offer high-speed wireless
Internet service.

Earlier this year, the Defense Department, Department of Homeland
Security, the Federal Aviation Administration and other agencies raised
concerns to the FCC about approving LightSquared's new network. A group of
34 Senators also sent the agency a letter on May 19 raising concerns about
the issue, after lobbying by the GPS community.



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