Coalition Blasts LightSquared's Open Letter


Reston, Va. - In an open letter published today in major newspapers, LightSquared claims it has developed solutions that will prevent its planned 4G mobile data service from interfering with GPS devices, but a coalition of GPS industry companies called the claim "irresponsible."

LightSquared's "expensive full-page ads repeat LightSquared's same, tired claims that it full well knows are not accurate," said the Coalition to Save Our GPS.

Tests mandated by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) are still underway to determine whether LightSquared's solutions will work.

In the open letter, LightSquared chairman/CEO Sanjiv Ahuja contended that "with 99.5 percent of all commercial GPS interference accounted for and solved, LightSquared has now tackled solving the remaining 0.5 percent of GPS interference occurring on precision devices that also inappropriately violate our licensed spectrum." The 99.5 percent of devices for which the company claims to have solved interference issues includes all 300 million GPS-equipped cellphones, LightSquared said in a previous statement.

For the other 0.5 percent of devices, Ahuja said the company "partnered with established GPS manufacturers to develop technology that eliminates interference issues for high-precision GPS devices, including those in the agriculture, surveying, construction, and defense industries." Pre-production designs are already being tested, and the technology "can be implemented simply, quickly, and inexpensively into GPS devices," he said.

The solution would enable the company's network "to coexist harmoniously, side by side, with GPS," Ahuja claimed.

The solution was developed by GPS maker Javad GNSS, which signed an agreement with LightSquared to make new high-precision GPS receivers compatible with the LightSquared network and devices that can be adapted to work with existing high-precision GPS devices already in the field to make them compatible. The devices would use a filter "to build a wall" between GPS and LightSquared spectrum, Javad said.

Prototypes have already been tested, the company said, and preproduction units will be released for testing in October. High-precision receivers for positioning applications are expected to go to market by November 2011, the companies said, and precision timing devices would hit the market by March 2012.

Per an FCC decision in mid September, LightSquared is working with various government agencies to test interference solutions for high-precision GPS devices. The company is also working with the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) to test solutions for consumer devices such as portable navigation devices (PNDs), in-dash navigation systems, and GPS-equipped cellphones. Those tests are expected to end on November 30.

As part of its solution for the 99.5 percent of GPS devices not used in high-precision applications, LightSquared previously said it would initially reduce its power output and limit its initial deployment to the lower part of its spectrum farther away from GPS frequencies.

A coalition of GPS industry groups opposed to LightSquared's plans, however, previously cast doubts on LightSquared's 99.5 percent solution. The Coalition to Save Our GPS contended that, in previous tests limited to the lower portion of LightSquared's spectrum, LightSquared interfered with GPS in six of 39 cellphones and with 20 of 29 general location/navigation receivers. The coalition also contended that the proposal to reduce output "actually represents an increase in power above the levels shown to create interference in recent tests."

The addition of filters to any GPS devices, the coalition also said in previous statements, would reduce the GPS devices' accuracy, and the filters could take years to be available. Besides that, the installed base of hundreds of millions of GPS devices could not be retrofitted, the group contended.

After LightSquared published its open letter, the coalition shot back with a statement contending that although the company's goal of creating more broadband competition is "laudable," the company's "initial failure to recognize the potential for interference to the GPS devices and services we all rely on every day is inexplicable, and its continuing efforts to claim that the problem has been ‘solved' are irresponsible," the group claimed.

"Both the FCC and the NTIA have recently called for further testing of the very issues that LightSquared claims are resolved," the coalition continued. "The devastating interference that LightSquared's plans would cause our nation's GPS needs to be resolved by that further testing -- not by continued LightSquared press releases and full-page ads."

The coalition also said that "it's time for LightSquared to step forward and accept responsibility providing fully tested, verified solutions, and for bearing the full costs associated with any transition required to implement any solution."


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