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LightSquared's "Rural Initiative" aims to avoid GPS problems

updated 12:10 pm EDT, Thu July 7, 2011

Company initially targeting rural areas

LightSquared has announced a new endeavor, labeled the Empower Rural America Initiative, that aims to resolve interference problems with GPS signals. Although the wireless broadband company has already voiced intentions to bring its services to rural markets, the initiative brings a new focus on overcoming the interference issues that have drawn criticism from the GPS industry.

The initiative includes an advisory group led by former North Dakota senator Byron Dorgan, former Washington representative George Nethercutt, and former Texas representative Charlie Stenholm.

The group is said to be working directly with small cities and rural communities to collaborate on deployment strategies, while also communicating with third parties to make sure "device filters and other approaches" can be developed to eliminate GPS issues.

The company recently acknowledged interference problems that surfaced during early tests of its satellite-based broadband network, which utilizes spectrum bands adjacent to those used by GPS equipment.

Several strategies have been proposed to help mitigate the interference problems, including lowering base-station transmitter power and adopting a section of spectrum further away from the GPS bands. Both methods are not viewed as completely solutions, however, leading LightSquared to argue in favor of filters for GPS equipment.

Even with reductions to transmission power, opponents argue that the company's broadband communications will still jam weak signals from GPS satellites. Filters are also viewed as an unrealistic solution, as existing consumer- and professional-level GPS receivers would have to be retrofitted to avoid becoming useless when in close proximity to LightSquared's transmitters.

by MacNN Staff



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