LightSquared Calls GPS Tests 'Rigged'

LightSquared said on Wednesday that the process the Air Force used to test GPS devices was "rigged" by manufacturers of GPS receivers and government end users to "produce bogus results."

In its most angry blast against the satellite-positioning-testing process yet, Reston, Va.-based LightSquared said that the testing that took place on behalf of the Space-Based Positioning, Navigation, and Timing Executive Committee (PNT EXCOM) used devices "cherry-picked" by the GPS Industry in its process.

The company is reacting to the committee's letter to the U.S. Department of Commerce on Friday stating that the company's proposed Long Term Evolution (LTE) network interferes with GPS receivers. It said that no further testing is needed.

To that end, the would-be 4G wholesale provider is petitioning the inspector general of NASA to investigate Bradford Parkinson, the vice-chair of PNT EXCOM. It wants Parkinson removed from the testing process because he is also on the board of GPS vendor Trimble (Nasdaq: TRMB).

The company marshaled Ed Thomas, former chief engineer at the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and now a paid consultant for LightSquared, to talk on their behalf on a call Wednesday morning. "They're trying to replay their hand and insert some picture cards inappropriately," Thomas said of the GPS companies role in the testing process.

Specifically, LightSquared claims that the companies -- with no input from it -- selected many discontinued or niche market GPS devices with poor filters or no filters. The 1dB noise floor used in the testing is described as an "extremely conservative" measure of failure. The company claims that GPS receivers regularly deal with worse conditions when triangulating locations in tree covers or built-up urban environments.

This reaction comes after a list of devices tested was released to LightSquared. The company claims in a statement that "the only mass market device" that failed the government's tests actually "performed flawlessly during Technical Working Group" testing.

The latest statements follow LightSquared's complaints that testing didn't take into account the company's proposal to reduce its transmit power levels and a number of suggested fixes for GPS receivers.

What now?
The company wants another round of testing as it works against the clock to get its network off the ground. It says it now has 37 wholesale customers signed up to use the LTE network.

"At the end of the day, this could be done in a month or two," ex-FCCer Thomas says. He also claimed that "the decision to go forward in the ATC [Ancillary Terrestrial Components] spectrum is entirely that of the FCC," despite the recent passage of the National Defense Authorization Act, which had revisions that stated that the FCC shall not provide authorization for LightSquared until the Defense Department's concerns about GPS have been resolved.

Nonetheless, the company is still working under the gun to get this done. Network partner Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S) gave LightSquared until the end of January to square away its issues with the FCC. Since the tests LightSquared is asking for aren't happening now, it seems very unlikely that the company will complete it all by Jan. 30.

"We continue to discuss the issue with Sprint; they’re fully advised of the situation, and that’s all we can say right now," said Jeff Carlisle, LightSquared’s EVP of regulatory affairs and public policy.

The company also reiterated that it has funding to continue for the next several quarters.

For more
Light Reading Mobile has extensively covered LightSquared's GPS battle:

— Dan Jones, Site Editor, Light Reading Mobile

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