LightSquared Proposal Threatens GPS Integrity
February 15, 2012
The Global Positioning System (GPS) is used by virtually all business aircraft operators to improve situational awareness, navigate within the national airspace system, and conduct instrument approaches to many general aviation airports. Today, more than 60% of the 11,000 business aircraft operating in the U.S. are equipped with various GPS capabilities required for instrument approaches at over 5000 airports. Even more have en route GPS capability.
In January 2011, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) conditionally allowed a company called LightSquared to offer wireless broadband services in radio frequency bands adjacent to those used by GPS receivers. Based on feedback from public and private sector GPS users, the FCC told LightSquared that it could not launch service until testing could be completed to determine the extent of the problems that their proposal would cause.
On December 13, 2011, the federal government confirmed that previously leaked reports that tests conducted by a joint Technical Working Group show that signals from a proposed nationwide wireless broadband network interfered with the majority of commercial GPS receivers tested. LightSquared quickly offerred to cede authority over use of the upper part of its allotted spectrum in exchange for immediate access to the lower 10MHz of the spectrum initially granted to LightSquared by the FCC in December 2010. That proposal was met with wariness from the Coalition to Save our GPS.
In its December 20, 2011, filing to the FCC, LightSquared lashed out at the GPS industry, claiming poor design of the units is solely to blame for the problem.
On January 13, 2012, a joint panel of representatives from nine federal agencies – the National Executive Committee for Space-Based Positioning, Navigation, and Timing – sent a letter to the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) stating that there are “no practical solutions” that would allow LightSquared’s proposed broadband service to operate “without significantly interfering with GPS.”