LightSquared in the News

This story was updated with new information on March 16.

Reports from the Satellite 2012 conference early this week featured LightSquared squarely in the middle of a contentious panel discussion. The discussion, titled “LightSquared and GPS,” was intended to provide a status report and an inside look at what can be taken away from the LightSquared experience. However, according to reports, the panel split from the intended direction, providing a rehash of test results, marketing pitches and a critical discussion of regulatory issues.

Panel members discussed how interference is an issue that high-precision GPS device manufacturers have been aware of for several years, yet the filtering and any other protective measures have never been implemented. Javad Ashjaee, president and CEO of Javad GNSS, a company selected by LightSquared to develop this kind of filtering, indicated that his company had completed development of the filters. Testing 14 different manufacturers’ GPS receivers revealed no technical issues.

Complaining of “scare tactics,” discussion included the LightSquared business plan which calls for a 60 degree downward tilt on transmission equipment which would alleviate most interference to aviation as had been widely addressed.  A Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) report was noted that indicates LightSquared is not compatible with the FAA specifications for low-altitude aircraft like planes and helicopters.

Bronson Hokuf, principal engineer/GPS Systems at Garmin, indicated that standards for consumer GPS gear are much less stringent than those used in aviation. Commenting on the addition of filtering,  Hokuf reportedly indicated that the completion of one filter designed to protect from one source of interference was not a total solution. Saying that Garmin already manufactures its products to FAA standards, he went on to say that the kinds of changes necessary would likely take years.

Jeff Carlisle, executive vice president-regulatory affairs and public policy at LightSquared, discussed the problem of GPS interference as an ongoing and historic issue, not a problem which was found due to the LightSquared business implementation. His comments focused on inaction by government regulators which allow the interference issue to perpetuate, saying this is “another policy failure.”

In a related story, reports indicate that LightSquared has hired two prominent conservative litigators. This move is interpreted as an indication that LightSquared is preparing to file suit against the Federal Communications Commission over revocation of the waivers granted allowing implementation of a hybrid 4G LTE network.

Online media accounts say that Ted Olsen, former solicitor general under George W. Bush, and Eugene Scalia, former solicitor of the Labor Department, have been retained to assist LightSquared.

On Friday March 16, LightSquared, along with other interested parties, filed comments with the FCC, responding to the commission’s public notice proposing that the conditional waiver granted to the company in January 2011 be vacated. The waiver provided ancillary terrestrial authority. The FCC recently announced its intentions to suspend the waiver, due to GPS interference in the LightSquared L-band operation.

LightSquared’s comments filed in Docket IB 11-109 were highly critical of the FCC decision, describing it as unfair and illegal.

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