200,000 GPS devices under threat

A company planning to build a nationwide high-speed broadband network has admitted its plans would affect the performance of 200,000 GPS devices in the US.

LightSquared’s idea is to put together a network of both cellphone towers and satellites to offer LTE nationwide. It wouldn’t deal directly with consumers but rather would sell access on a wholesale basis to wireless companies.

The big problem is that the spectrum LightSquared plans to operate in is close to the spectrum used for GPS satellite signals. The GPS industry previously complained that this could cause widespread problems, claiming the disruption to signals would not only pose a safety threat, but could cost the country $96 billion and 3.3 million jobs. (Contrastingly, LightSquared claims its network would bring a $120 billion economic benefit to the public.)

The Federal Communications Commission, which would regulate the LightSquared network, asked the company to make its case on the issue for a FCC technical working group report that was formally presented to the FCC this week.

Although the report hasn’t been published, the company says it’s found a solution that would avoid interference for 99.5 percent of GPS devices, including all cellphones. As far as LightSquared is concerned, the fault now lies with the GPS for not fitting filters to recently manufactured devices, which it claims would only have cost five cents per device.

The company is looking at the 0.5 percent of devices still under threat as a small rather than big issue, arguing that “It is unthinkable that a nation which recently completed a complex digital-television transition involving nearly every household in the U.S. will be stymied by a problem posed by approximately 200,000 GPS devices.”

Not surprisingly the GPS industry disagrees. The “coalition” of industry members opposing the network says that “The FCC technical working group report conclusively shows that LightSquared’s proposed operations defy the law of physics, and therefore simply will not work…. we have frighteningly little idea of the magnitude of the consequences of interference, other than it will be truly extraordinary in scale. To tamper with these systems based on technical guesswork would be a mistake of monumental proportions”

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One Response to 200,000 GPS devices under threat

  1. Except they already fixed the issue.
    Part of the problem was that the GPS device manufactures were straying outside the spectrum assigned to them by the FCC, into the spectrum that was going to be used by this company (not on purpose, just by cutting corners – this particular frequency wasn't in use at the time, so it didn't matter as much).
    LightSquared looked at the problem, and found out that if the GPS manufactures install "filters" on their GPS (costing around 5 cents each), then there wouldn't be a problem.
    The fault lies with the GPS companies now – and they are just too embarrassed in finding out that they not only no longer have a case, but inf act are the party to blame now.
    Plus – you'd figure the GPS companies would see this as an opportunity. It would be Y2K all over again, only this time it only effects a single range of digital products and the problem is real. They would get to slap a sticker on the new unit, proclaiming them "ready" for this new issue and sell hundreds of thousands of units in a very short amount of time (without having to dedicate too much in resources to really develop new models)

    We shouldn't hold back these plans in any way. This is a Nation-wide 4G network, that can be used by (presumably) any provider; from small, single-city start-ups to the evil empire of AT&T. All of a sudden, wired networks are moot points in rural areas. Sure, 4G still can't touch the performance of Fiber/COAX/CAT5-6 networks, but in rural areas that are still using DSL, or even Dial-up (yes, such places still exist in America), it would be a massive leap forward. I can even see ISPs taking advantage of the network solely for data usage.

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