[time-nuts] LightSquared asks GPS makers and users to pay for filters
Charles P. Steinmetz
charles_steinmetz at lavabit.com
Mon Jun 27 18:28:26 UTC 2011
I do not want to minimize the threat posed to GPS by Lightsquared
("LS"), but the post below (i) ignores the last 3 months of debate on
the subject and dozens of messages on this list, (ii) mis-states the
case against LightSquared, and (iii) ignores the FCC's leading role
in the fiasco.
LS did nothing nefarious. The FCC established the basis for an
"ancillary terrestrial component" ("ATC") to satellite services that
uses terrestrial base stations on satellite frequencies to supplement
satellite networks. The first commercial application of ATC was to
the satellite radio services ("SDARS"). There was a hue and cry from
adjacent WCS licensees, and several FCC proceedings to resolve the
issues, which are still under attack.
The FCC, on its own motion and with the blessing of the
Administration, has decided that the US desperately needs 500 MHz
more of wireless broadband spectrum or we will never recover from the
recession. Personally, I believe it is mistaken to think that
enabling multi-player gamers and video watchers to squander vast
amounts of wireless bandwidth will rejuvenate the economy -- but
then, it was not my decision. As a result of this muddled mindset,
the FCC has been looking at every possibility to repurpose
"underutilized" spectrum for wireless broadband.
One of the FCC's ideas -- and make no mistake, it was the FCC's idea,
not something driven by political connections and campaign
contributions -- is to greatly expand terrestrial broadband
operations in the mobile satellite service ("MSS") bands. No one can
reasonably argue that the MSS bands are not "underutilized" -- as I
remarked before, you can see the tumbleweeds blowing through.
Currently, expanded terrestrial use of the MSS bands requires a
waiver of the "ancillary" part of the ATC rules. However, the FCC
has already begun the process of re-allocating the MSS bands to allow
purely terrestrial uses on a co-primary basis. When that
re-allocation process is complete, the band will be fully open to
terrestrial uses and no waiver will be necessary. So, the LS issue
is just the tiniest tip of an immense iceberg. And again, that is
ALL the FCC's doing. It has nothing to do with graft, corruption,
political connections, or campaign contributions. Just bad decisions
made in a time of unnecessary panic by the FCC.
LS has simply played by the rules the FCC set out. It acquired huge
chunks of MSS spectrum (for which it paid), and has applied to the
FCC for the waivers necessary to use the spectrum terrestrially but
not necessarily in connection with satellite service. The FCC
granted the waivers, subject to the outcome of technical tests
demonstrating that such use would not interfere with other spectrum
users (primarily, GPS users). A committee was convened to test and
report. The report was due on June 15, and from what has been
leaked, it documents serious and widespread interference to GPS
systems. LS sought (and was granted) an extension until July 1 to
submit the report. Last week, LS announced that it intended to
launch its service on spectrum lower in the band, in the hopes of
avoiding GPS interference, at least for now. GPS interests are still
skeptical, and are still fighting.
Anyway, whatever corporate opportunism has been engaged in by LS and
its owners, the fault here lies firmly with the FCC, not with LS and
supposed bribes and back room deals. As usual, conspiracy theories
are readily explained by simple incompetence.
>As some of us know, a company called Lightsquared used political
>connections and campaign contributions to short circuit established
>FCC procedures to obtain a band of frequencies for the cell phone
>system they are developing. Thanks to their political manipulations
>they were able to avoid paying the billions for frequency spectrum
>that AT&T, Sprint, Verizon and others have to pay.
>But there is a fly in the ointment. These frequencies are in bands reserved
>for satellite transmission. That is why Lightsquared got the allocation
>without bidding and paying billions for them. These frequencies are
>adjacent to the GPS frequencies used by untold millions of users.
>When Lightsquared transmits on these frequencies with powerful
>ground based transmitters, GPS receivers stop working for several miles.
>Now Lightsquared claims it is the responsibility of current GPS users to
>buy new devices so Lightsquared can leverage their frequency
>allocation. These new GPS receivers have yet to be designed.
>Some critical applications may never be able to avoid Lightsquared's
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