LightSquared Backers Sue GPS Industry

 - August 13, 2013, 3:35 PM

Harbinger Capital Partners and other entities associated with the failed LightSquared 4G broadband network filed a lawsuit against Deere & Co., Garmin, Trimble Navigation, The U.S. GPS Industry Council and The Coalition to Save Our GPS. The lawsuit claims that the defendants failed to disclose information about GPS interference problems caused by an adjacent frequency spectrum that LightSquared was allocated to use and seeks $1.9 billion in damages.

According to the complaint, LightSquared and the plaintiffs “and their predecessors” worked with the makers of GPS products “from 2002 to 2009 to resolve issues relating to spectrum ‘interference’ that might occur from plaintiffs’ use of the spectrum authorized by the FCC.” Yet, according to the lawsuit, it wasn’t until late 2011 and 2012 that the defendants revealed that LightSquared’s “use of [this] spectrum would cause defendants’ GPS products to malfunction.”

In a statement, Jim Kirkland, Trimble v-p and general counsel, said, “The lawsuit is an attempt to avoid responsibility for the consequences of LightSquared’s plan to build a high-powered mobile network in spectrum adjacent to GPS, despite prior FCC restrictions. More than a year of intensive study…determined that LightSquared’s proposed network would have interfered with millions of GPS devices. This interference resulted from the characteristics of LightSquared’s new plan for use of satellite spectrum, not the design of GPS devices. The responsibility for Harbinger’s losses rests squarely with Harbinger. The lawsuit is lacking in merit and we will vigorously defend [against] it.”

Comments

David Hoffman's picture

I seriously doubt the GPS receiver and GPS satellite manufacturers spent 2002 to 2009 telling LightSquared that it would be acceptable to operate a high powered terrestrial radio network in frequencies adjacent to relatively weak GPS signals. The GPS receiver manufacturers, GPS satellite manufacturers, and the GPS program office did make serious mistakes by not properly manufacturing equipment to stay within the frequency boundaries that were assigned for GPS use. But even with that, the adjacent frequencies were assigned for Earth receive only use of transmissions from orbiting satellites. Any radio engineer worth his degree should have stopped this project after about one hour of analysis. The fact that the FCC got bamboozled into this, shows how technically incompetent its engineers and administrators can be when the words "internet access" are dangled in front of them. LightSquared needs to admit the idea was seriously flawed from an interference standpoint and never should have been funded by venture capital. Sorry, but this mess was created by private money chasing profits based on seriously flawed engineering. The free market says the stockholders and creditors get to learn lessons from loss of investment. Just like the many people who invest in restaurants, dance clubs, bars, and internet based grocery deliver services that lost investment money.

Let the word go forth from now on. Do NOT base your business model on creating radio frequency interference with critical national security and national economic radio frequencies and infrastructures.

Dan's picture

It is not a simple matter of GPS receivers not "staying within the frequency boundaries they were assigned". Every radio receiver is subject to out of band interference. Ramp the interferering signal's power high enough, and any radio receiver can be overwhelmed. GPS receivers were designed properly for an environment where near-band interference was limited to conforming use of neighboring MSS bands. That is a reasonable assumption, given that the FCC rules for conforming use of MSS spectrum had been constant for over 40 years. Only when these long-standing rules were being proposed to be changed did a potential problem with interference exist.

Suggesting that the GPS receivers were seriously mis-designed would be the same as saying your mobile phone is mis-designed because the FCC changed the rules and licensed 1MW television station transmitters to operate in a neighboring band just vacated by a bankrupt wireless provider. Reciever design needs to be reasonably defined using current FCC operating rules, otherwise devices must be over-designed (resulting in higher costs to consumers) for scenarios that will never happen.

The rest of your post is spot on.

Jean-Francois Reat's picture

Blame somebody else for our lack of due diligence...what a bunch of JerksSquared!

John Valean Baily's picture

Another case of litigation run riot in an attempt by Harbinger to salvage something from Lightsquared's failed attempts - while everyone else could see the writing on the wall months if not years ago. Harbinger should be roundly condemned for wasting everyone's time.

Rich 's picture

Under the category of :

"We will sue anybody for anything and accept responsibility for nothing."

The people at Lightspeed remind me of the people from cable companies in their level of lack of honesty.

These people bought into a scheme to make a billion dollars and swallowed the BS put out by the people that conned the investors out of their money.

The people that definitely are not at fault are the people that were there first manufacturing the GPS receivers.

taildragger's picture

I think you confused Lightspeed (makers of aviation headsets) and LightSquared (makers of denials, false accusations and frivolous lawsuits)

Brian Krahmer's picture

Absolutely disgusting. You want to come to market with a new service, are shut down by the FCC because it could cause major disruptions to GPS, and your solution is to sue existing GPS companies? F U for not doing your homework to begin with...

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