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LightSquared shifts strategy amid GPS interference concerns

updated 08:20 pm EDT, Mon June 20, 2011

Company to use different block of spectrum

LightSquared has reportedly backtracked from its initial position regarding interference with GPS technology. Although the company previously denied that its LTE network would cause problems for GPS receivers, early tests proved critics were correct in assuming the signals would conflict with navigation equipment. To alleviate ongoing concerns, LightSquared is shifting its deployment strategy to avoid transmitting using the spectrum block adjacent to the frequencies utilized by GPS satellites.

When the wireless broadband transmissions were switched to a 10MHz block lower on the spectrum, the trials were claimed to be "largely free" of interference issues. The company admits that its signals still interfere with certain equipment, described as a "limited number of high precision GPS receivers."

It remains unclear if the problems will ultimately reduce the total capacity available for LightSquared's network, as the alternative block was already expected to be utilized in the second or third year of deployment. The company is said to be negotiating with the satellite company that controls the spectrum block, in an attempt to accelerate the handover process.

Aside from the change in spectrum blocks, LightSquared is preparing to modify its FCC license to halve the maximum output power of its base-station transmitters to provide further protection against interference with GPS equipment.

Companies associated with the GPS industry vocally opposed LightSquared's initial plans, claiming the broadband signals would prevent equipment from receiving positioning signals from satellites. During tests, the broadband transmissions are said to have effectively jammed GPS signals. Signal-filter upgrades for the large number of existing GPS receivers utilized for civilian, military and business purposes was viewed as an unrealistic solution.

Despite the clear conflict with GPS technology, LightSquared CEO Sanjiv Ahuja has told Reuters the company plans to negotiate with players in the GPS industry to agree on a solution to utilize the original spectrum in a "couple of years."

by MacNN Staff



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