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LightSquared GPS Fix Could Cost 'Billions'

Dan Jones
LR Mobile News Analysis
Dan Jones, Mobile Editor
4/6/2011
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A fix to possible interference problems between GPS positioning systems and the coming LightSquared Long Term Evolution (LTE) network could be costly, according to reports.

As Light Reading Mobile reported last week, LightSquared says that it is "on track" to deploy its first wholesale 4G markets next year. This is despite increased concern about the possibility of interference expressed by the Pentagon and Department of Transport.

The basic problem is that the LightSquared L-Band terrestrial base stations broadcast on the adjacent frequency to the GPS satellites. The worry is that the much stronger signals from the earthbound LTE radios will stop terrestrial GPS receivers from locking on to the weaker signals from space.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) said -- as part of the waiver granted allowing LightSquared to operate a hybrid network in the L-Band -- that LightSquared must work with the satellite industry to study the issue and provide a solution if there is a problem. The first report from the 34-member group arrived on March 1, the second is due April 15, and the final report is due June 15.

The story has now gone mainstream with newspapers around the globe picking up on an Associated Press report about the way the network could possibly drown out GPS.

They say
The AP has put up a handy video summary of the whole affair that you can watch below:



A potential solution to possible interference -- at least for new GPS receivers -- is to install filters to block the LTE interference. The Guardian focuses on this element in its take on the story. The U.K. paper pushes the angle that the problem could cost billions to fix. Of course, filters may not fix the problem for older GPS infrastructure.

GPS World, meanwhile, has a good summary of government and GPS industry actions on the LightSquared case so far. Author Alan Cameron writes that it is "impossible to predict" which way the issue will be decided yet.

How the LightSquared issue plays out is important for its infrastructure partner Nokia Networks too. "While NSN's North American sales picked up in the 4th quarter, an infusion of revenues from a 40,000 base station rollout could more than double its current sales in North America for the next few years," Connected Planet's Kevin Fitchard writes of NSN's $7 billion deal with LightSquared.

We say
The full extent of any possible GPS interference problem is as yet unknown. The technical working group checking out the issue is due to start independent testing soon; LightSquared is currently still working on its L-Band base stations with NSN. You can read all about it below:



— Dan Jones, Site Editor, Light Reading Mobile

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