DOT Counters LightSquared GPS Standards Plan
LightSquared asked the FCC on Tuesday to adopt self-serving standards on GPS receivers.
Today, a top government agency came out with some suggestions of its own, and they won't benefit LightSquared.
Transportation Department Deputy Secretary John Porcari told lawmakers at a Wednesday congressional hearing that the agency plans to work with the NTIA on regulations that would ban services that interfere with GPS.
As we all know by now, LightSquared is one of those services.
Calling LightSquared “fundamentally incompatible” with GPS, Porcari said the DOT proposed to work with the NTIA on standards that would prohibit the use of spectrum adjacent to GPS bands for services that would interfere with the technology – services like LightSquared’s proposed LTE network.
"It would let operators know in advance which uses in adjacent bands would and would not be compatible with GPS," he said in testimony before the House Aviation Subcommittee.
The subcommittee's hearing took place two days after the Senate passed a bill that provided $11 billion to the Federal Aviation Administration to upgrade its radar-based air traffic control system to GPS.
Government tests show LightSquared’s powerful signals drown out a broad swath of GPS receivers, particularly sensitive high-precision equipment used to land planes, direct missiles and guide farm equipment.
Wide-band GPS receivers listen in to neighboring bands to calculate more precise coordinates. Until LightSquared came along, the eavesdropping wasn’t an issue because mobile satellite services operating in adjacent bands emitted only faint signals that didn’t affect receivers.
“GPS was put in a quiet piece of spectrum on purpose because it fundamentally needs to have quiet neighbors,” he said.
The regulations would act as a neighborhood association, keeping the spectrum block quiet for its most important residents.
LightSquared wasn’t invited to testify at the hearing, since it was ostensibly about protecting GPS in general and didn’t have a specific focus on its LTE plans, but the bulk of testimony and questions still focused on the impact of LightSquared’s operations on the critical navigation system.
LightSquared was peeved at its exclusion, calling it “outrageous” and one-sided.
“It’s outrageous that a congressional hearing set up to examine factual issues was only focused on one side of the story - a side of the story supported by commercial GPS makers who designed faulty devices that depend on using spectrum licensed to LightSquared,” a company spokesman said in a statement.
LightSquared blames GPS manufacturers for making poorly designed receivers that are especially susceptible to interference. The GPS industry argues that its receiver designs worked fine before LightSquared got a waiver from the FCC to blast high-power signals in what had formerly been a quiet spectrum band.
LightSquared claimed last summer its revised deployment plan would largely fix the problem, but recently released government tests showed the service still knocked out GPS.
The company says the tests were rigged and has accused the government of colluding with the GPS industry.
Porcari said at the hearing that the results had been independently verified by the Idaho National Laboratory and MIT Lincoln Laboratory, neither of which is affiliated with GPS industry.
“The results were unacceptable,” he said.
Porcari’s statements were echoed by other witnesses at the hearing, which included representatives from the aviation industry and the director of George Washington University's Space Policy Institute.
The FCC has the final say in the matter. The waiver it granted to LightSquared last January stipulates the company address the GPS interference issue before launch.