Congress, Other

LightSquared, problems squared

It’s tough enough to raise the billions of dollars needed to build out a nationwide hybrid satellite/terrestrial wireless network, as LightSquared has found. But when that system may interfere with one of the most crucial satellite systems anywhere, those problems are, well, squared, something that Congress will be looking into during a hearing today.

Scrutiny of LightSquared’s system has grown in recent weeks after tests by come in industry indicated that the company’s wireless signals would interfere with GPS signals, in the worst case making GPS receivers useless. Recent reports, including one by the White House-chartered National Space-Based Positioning, Navigation, and Timing Systems Engineering Forum, have confirmed that LightSquared’s system would interfere with GPS signals.

LightSquared (formerly SkyTerra) has one satellite in orbit, launched last year; that satellite will be augmented by a terrestrial system that the company is seeking to raise money to build out. While the company originally argued that there was no danger of interference, the company this week admitted there was an interference issue but that there was an easy fix: it would instead shift to a different block of spectrum for its initial service, one that “largely free of interference issues” expect for some high-precision GPS receivers. An industry group, the Coalition to Save Our GPS, is skeptical of LightSquared’s claims, claiming that the company’s proposal “borders on the bizarre”.

Concerns about LightSquared’s potential impact of GPS will be aired at a hearing this morning by the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. The hearing will feature a number of government and industry witnesses, including an executive with LightSquared.

3 comments to LightSquared, problems squared

  • John

    I blame the FCC. They should have had the foresight to see that putting high powered communications right next to the GPS spectrum was a bad idea.

    Lightsquared will loose this battle because GPS is so pervasive in both industrial and consumer segments these days that any degradation in GPS performance will be a big deal.

  • amightywind

    It’s tough enough to raise the billions of dollars needed to build out a nationwide hybrid satellite/terrestrial wireless network

    It’s tough because of all the mobile satellite systems that failed. Investors aren’t stupid. Throw in the risk of GPS interference and it is a non-starter. The list of failures of LEO and MEO based systems is long: Globalstar, ICO, Iridium, Teledesic. Yes, Iridium is currently operating profitably, but only because the original Motorola assets were bought out of bankruptcy for pennies on the dollar.

  • Rhyolite

    LightSquared really exists to gain access to the ancillary terrestrial spectrum, which is extremely valuable. The satellite is almost irrelevant. It’s the terrestrial component that poses the interference risk.

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