Squabble Grows over LightSquared’s Potential GPS Threat

 - April 12, 2011, 10:00 AM

The controversy over LightSquared’s plan to operate 40,000 high-powered commercial transmitters to provide nationwide Internet connectivity over a radio frequency close to GPS recently ratcheted up another notch with the undersecretaries of the Departments of Defense and Transportation jointly expressing concerns to the FCC about the threat of interference to GPS. Garmin had earlier shown that an airborne receiver lost GPS reception within five miles of Lightsquared’s stations. The undersecretaries pointed to a “lack of inclusiveness regarding input from federal GPS stakeholders” in the composition of the LightSquared and GPS industry working group approved by the FCC to assess the interference threat. They pointed out that “active engagement with DOD and DOT, the national stewards and global providers of the GPS service, is essential to protect this ubiquitous defense, transportation and economic utility.” For competitive commercial reasons, however, LightSquared obtained FCC agreement to require completion of receiver testing by May 31, which DOD, DOT and top industry spokesmen feel is inadequate. One senior military official told AIN, “This is totally dumb. If someone interferes with GPS to sell Internet service to West Podunk, we should shut them down immediately.”