XO, Vonage, Others Support LightSquared in GPS Fight

Cellular South, XO Communications and Vonage are among dozens of companies that have asked the Federal Communications Commission to support both Global Positioning System technology and LightSquared the emerging fourth-generation wireless broadband operator facing criticism that its systems will potentially interfere with GPS devices on which government agencies and others rely.

It is imperative, and in the vital interest of the country, that the FCC create an environment where LightSquared and GPS can co-exist,” wrote the companies in a letter dated June 15.

LightSquared cannot launch its commercial service until first resolving the FCCs concerns over potential interference with GPS devices, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski noted last month in a letter to Sen. Charles Grassley (R.-Iowa).

If GPS is interfered with, aviation and numerous other private and public sector activities will be adversely impacted, including public safety, homeland security, transportation, agriculture and construction,” several members of Congress wrote in a letter this month to Genachowski. We are concerned that the conditional waiver issued [to LightSquared] by the FCC may result in a new technology, that once operational, may jam GPS receivers, disrupt GPS signals, and create dead spots across our country.”

In a blog posting June 13, LightSquared Chairman and CEO Sanjiv Ahuja said the company is investing $14 billion in private investment over the next eight years to build a high-speed wireless broadband network.

The company plans to lease its network to wireless providers and other companies rather than compete directly for end-user subscribers. The network could enable U.S. telecommunications providers and cable TV operators without wireless infrastructure to expand into the fourth-generation broadband mobile market.

But LightSquared cannot proceed without the FCCs blessing, as Genachowski noted.

The FCC required LightSquared to submit periodic reports to the agency, including a final report by yesterday that included an analysis from a working group of the potential for overload interference to GPS devices from LightSquareds terrestrial network of base stations, technical and operational steps to avoid such interference, and specific recommendations going forward to mitigate potential interference to GPS devices.”

In a letter submitted yesterday to the FCC, LightSquared said the final report was not ready and requested an extension through July 1. The FCC granted the extension last night.

Among the main reasons for the slight delay has been that based on preliminary test results, LightSquared determined that additional testing was necessary to permit a proper evaluation of various mitigation options for addressing the GPS receiver overload issue,” LightSquared stated in the letter to the FCC. That testing has been performed, and it has set back the timetable . Moreover, the analysis of the test results has proven to be time consuming and has required in depth discussion.”

Since 1995, LightSquareds predecessors have had access to spectrum in a band adjacent to GPS, and LightSquared itself gained access to that spectrum last year, according to Genachowskis letter to Sen. Grassley.

In January, the FCC adopted an order that permitted LightSquareds wholesale customers to offer terrestrial service on a retail basis provided that LightSquared comply with a number of conditions that ensure it continues to offer an integrated satellite/terrestrial service,” Genachowski wrote.

Genachowski said the FCC and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration will review the final report and establish a public comment period to give parties an opportunity to weigh in.  

The Commission will then consider thoroughly all the viewpoints and technical evidence included in the final report and the comments filed in response to that report, and will not permit LightSquared to provide commercial service until it is clear that potential GPS interference concerns have been resolved,” Genachowski wrote.

The working group examining the GPS issues includes LightSquared and representatives of the GPS industry. Government agencies are monitoring the group but are not directly involved, according to an FCC source.

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