FAA Warns on LightSquared GPS Tests in Nevada

Remember the pesky possibility that would-be 4G provider LightSquared 's upcoming Long Term Evolution (LTE) network could mess with global positioning data from satellites?

Well, tests starting this week could help to establish how much the first-of-its-kind hybrid satellite and 4G network will actually affect signals sent from space to GPS receivers on earth.

In the meantime, the Federal Aviation Authority is taking no chances: The agency has issued a warning that GPS service in an almost 300-mile circle over Nevada could be "unreliable or unavailable" for six-hour periods between May 16 and May 27 as LightSquared tests its L-Band network signal in Boulder City.

They say
The FAA is asking pilots to note any differences they see to GPS service if flying in that area and to watch for further notices. "The FAA notice appears to be using an abundance of caution," writes Richard B. Langley at GPS World.

The after-midnight tests are more likely to a be a concern for hobbyist pilots rather than airliners, which can also use navigational beacons that pre-date GPS, The Las Vegas Sun reports.

"The traveling public has nothing to worry about with these tests," Chris Dancy, spokesman for the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, tells the paper. "But this is something that noncommercial pilots need to be aware of. ... They'll need alternative means of communication."

LightSquared's entire future could hinge on the results of tests like these. If there is found to be significant issues with GPS interference when the network is up and running, that would likely stop deployment of the planned wholesale network in its tracks, as a helpful recap of the company's progress on E-Commerce Times points out.

In fact, AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) has already been vocal in questioning the need for wholesale 4G providers like LightSquared and Clearwire LLC (Nasdaq: CLWR) in the first place, particularly with two companies fighting to deploy networks and grab deals from the same set of customers.

"There really isn't a profitable wholesale model in wireless today," John Stankey, the head of AT&T's enterprise business, told Reuters.

"Do you know one that's making money? Do you know one that's on a trajectory to make money? Do you know of one that's not in jeopardy of running out of money in the next 12 months?"

LightSquared hopes to have its first commercial LTE markets up before the end of the year.

For more
Read all about LightSquared and GPS below:

— Dan Jones, Site Editor, Light Reading Mobile

Be the first to post a comment regarding this story.
Sign In