LightSquared asks FCC for GPS receiver rules
Prospective cellular startup LightSquared today asked the FCC to establish rules that would ensure that GPS devices using receiver technology that listen to signals in adjacent bands — such as the spectrum licensed to LightSquared — are not protected from interference caused by legitimate uses of nearby airwaves.
“What we want is certainty in the spectrum environment,” Jeff Carlisle, LightSquared’s executive vice president of regulatory affairs and public policy, said during a conference call with reporters.
LightSquared plans to deploy a terrestrial LTE network nationwide on its 1.5 GHz spectrum, which is adjacent to the airwaves used for GPS operations. However, the GPS industry has objected to these plans, claiming that a terrestrial network in the LightSquared band would interfere with GPS operations.
Last year, the FCC approved the proposed LightSquared LTE deployment, if the carrier does not interfere with GPS operations. LightSquared claims tests indicate that its new plan — to use only the 10 MHz of spectrum farthest away from the GPS band — would resolve 99% of the GPS interference issues.
But last month, nine federal departments and agencies that conducted tests on LightSquared’s proposed LTE network told National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) that they found “no practical solutions or mitigations that would permit the LightSquared broadband service, as proposed, to operate in the next few months —or years — without significantly interfering with GPS.”
Today’s filing with the FCC is not expected to alter the decision-making process associated with LightSquared’s ability to deploy its proposed LTE network, Carlisle said. But the company is hopeful that the FCC will grant the request, thereby allowing LightSquared and its investors to make long-term plans.
“Down the road, we believe that having an environment that provides more certainty — not only to us but other licensed users of spectrum and the GPS manufacturers — makes a lot more sense that the current chaos that we have in the market right now that’s caused by manufacturers building devices without any reference to any sort of restrictions or requirements for them to [receive signals only in the GPS band],” Carlisle said.
LightSquared officials have stated that unlicensed GPS devices should not be protected from interference caused by legitimate usage of its licensed spectrum band. But GPS industry representatives have said the interference issues only exist because LightSquared plans to change the primary use of its spectrum from satellite technology to a terrestrial cellular technology.
As for the notion that GPS devices are unlicensed and do not warrant protection, that argument is not applicable in this case, according to Jim Kirkland, vice president and general counsel for Trimble, a founding member of the Coalition to Save Our GPS.
“LightSquared says GPS is unlicensed to argue that it’s not protected from interference,” Kirkland has said during an interview with Urgent Communications. “All I’m saying is that the licensed vs. unlicensed distinction here is not relevant. The FCC has clearly said that this service is protected from interference.
“Whether GPS is licensed or unlicensed, it’s an authorized spectrum use. It’s sort of a red herring.”