FCC Kicks LightSquared Can Down the Road
On Tuesday, the FCC approved LightSquared’s fallback plan to move from a frequency close to that of GPS in the upper L-band–where tests had shown severe interference–to a lower 10-MHz portion of the same spectrum where reduced interference was expected. A new series of tests in this spectrum are expected to begin soon, and virtually every expert body has already predicted the tests will reveal some interference with GPS. The lower part of the L-band spectrum is essential to the more than 200,000 organizations of the true precision GPS community, from farmers to construction workers to earth crust scientists to building surveyors. To this exacting group, acceptable accuracy starts around an inch or two and quickly drops to fractions of centimeters. In previous tests even with lower-power transmitting stations than planned in final deployment, LightSquared’s 4G broadband transmissions still caused interference with high-precision GPS devices, including those for aviation. In its September 13 public notice, the FCC has apparently avoided facing up to the only solution to prevent any interference between the 4G broadband network and GPS, which is to move LightSquared to another frequency. Instead, the FCC chose to kick the can farther down the road.