Test finds LightSquared plan interferes with GPS

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Federal regulators have renewed allegations that the mobile Internet service LightSquared interferes with military and aviation operations in what experts say is a blow to the fledgling business.

The fresh test results had been a last-ditch chance for Reston, Va.-based LightSquared to prove that its satellite service was safe. But the results confirmed findings that the network would interfere with key Global Positioning System technology used to steer planes and operate sensitive construction and military equipment, The Washington Post reported.

The Federal Communications Commission is a key regulator of the telecommunications industry and plays an important role in shaping U.S. technology policy.

Later today, the company is expected to announce its business plans in the wake of the report.

Many in the recreational boating industry had feared that LightSquared’s satellite service also would be a hindrance to boaters.

This summer, BoatUS delivered more than 15,000 comments from concerned boaters, sailors and anglers to the FCC, asking the agency to protect the future reliability of GPS across the United States.

“We hope these 15,000 comments indicate to the FCC the critical need of having a reliable navigation system, not just for boaters and anglers, but for pilots, drivers, outdoor adventurers and first responders. It is unimaginable that the federal government — the guardian of the bandwidth — would consider approving a proposal with so many problems and grave public safety consequences,” BoatUS president Margaret Podlich said at the time the comments were delivered.

Some government officials said LightSquared’s problems didn’t seem fixable.

“There appear to be no practical solutions or mitigations that would permit the LightSquared broadband service, as proposed, to operate in the next few months or years without significantly interfering with GPS,” deputy secretary of defense Ashton Carter and deputy secretary of transportation John Porcari wrote in a letter. The officials head the interagency National Space-Based Positioning, Navigation and Timing group.

Their conclusion, after several months of testing, will put off the company’s attempts to gain license approval by the FCC to light up its satellite network and begin selling broadband Internet service that would compete with AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile, the newspaper reported.

In a recent statement, LightSquared urged the FCC and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration “to retake the lead on government testing for GPS filtering solutions after a series of actions by federal agencies have demonstrated bias and inappropriate collusion with the private sector as reported by numerous media outlets, including Politico, PC World and Reuters.”

Test results must be re-evaluated by unbiased officials and engineers, the company said. Testing must proceed in cooperation with all parties to ensure that effective and appropriate guidelines are in place.

“LightSquared intends to protect its legal rights in order to ensure that fairness, transparency and the rule of law are guiding the testing process,” it said in a statement. “LightSquared has faith that, in the end, a fair process will prove that the technological solutions it has put forward will clear the way for hundreds of millions of Americans to get the wireless broadband competition they crave.”

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