LightSquared Nears the End of GPS Testing

LightSquared says that it will be done with GPS interference testing by June 15 and will then have to wait for Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to decide its fate. The carrier still expects to launch in 2012 and cover 100 million people with service in the U.S. by the end of that year.

LightSquared's executive VP of regulatory affairs and public policy, Jeffrey Carlisle, held a teleconference Wednesday to update reporters on the GPS issue as the testing time draws to a close. "The FCC has only said that they will talk the report over with other government agencies ... and issue a letter," Carlisle says. (See LightSquared: Testing in 2011, Launch in 1H '12 and FAA Warns on LightSquared GPS Tests in Nevada.)

The Harbinger Capital Partners LP -backed venture doesn't expect a deadline change. Carlisle says LightSquared plans commercial tests late this year and a network ready for commercial service "early in 2012." It is mandated by the FCC to have 100 million people covered by the end of 2012. (See LightSquared Needs Sprint in its Race to 4G.)

"The FCC was pretty clear in the January order that they'll be holding us to those milestones," Carlisle says.

This means that any GPS interference issues will need to be sorted out quickly if LightSquared is to meet its targets. The operator has been checking out over 150 different GPS devices in its testing. The report will offer information and analysis on the devices, the frequencies used and the transmit power of the network equipment.

LightSquared has been using Nokia Networks 's equipment in its tests in the Vegas, transmitting at half the 1.6 killowatt power that it will eventually use. Carlisle says the firm will be able to simulate the effects of full-power transmissions in software for the report.

Carlisle says that LightSquared always knew that there would be some interference problems with GPS receivers in the adjacent band picking up transmissions from its L-Band network. "We understand that certain GPS receivers capture signal from our band," he says.

This means that LightSquared will work with the GPS industry to mitigate any interference that the final report indicates "to ensure that there continues to be a robust GPS system," Carlisle says.

Nonetheless, he insists that this wasn't a surprise for GPS services either. SkyTerra, the company which was bought out by Harbinger last year, got permission for its L-Band terrestrial network long before the FCC allowed ground-only devices to be used on the network in January 2011.

SkyTerra was the first mobile satellite communications services (MSS) provider to receive a license to operate an Ancillary Terrestrial Component (ATC) network from the Federal Communications Commission. The network plan was first authorized in February 2003 and received a 5-0 vote in favor in the FCC's ATC reconsideration order of February 2005. (See Harbinger Hatches LTE Challenger in US.)

— Dan Jones, Site Editor, Light Reading Mobile

TelecomEngineer 12/5/2012 | 5:03:34 PM
re: LightSquared Nears the End of GPS Testing

Lightsquared's claim of a network launch in early 2012 is absolutely ludicrous as any individual who has designed, built, and launched a network will attest.  Many of the folks contributing to these ridiculous claims, are the same ones who made similarly laughable claims for the Sprint/Nextel/Clearwire/XOHM WiMax network.  Ask Clear how many actual on-air sites they have across the nation and then compare that to the number Sprint has.  Then keep in mind to have equivalent coverage, especially in-building, Clear needs at least 1.6X the # of sites as Sprint.  Last number I heard for Clear was less than 5000 sites nationwide with Sprint having around 40,000.  Why consumer groups haven’t figured out this sham, is a surprise to me.

Don’t take my word for it, take your 4G Clear phone, and a friend to drive you, lock your Clear/Sprint device into 4G only mode (many of their models now removed this feature and force you to use Sprint’s 3G network too), and attempt to surf the internet, download email, watch a movie, while your friend drives all around an area Clear claims to have “launched”.  Ideally, have a Sprint 3G device also tied into your laptop simultaneously surfing the same sites, downloading the same email, watching the same movie. 

What you will experience with 4G will be abysmal and should make you furious Sprint has been charging you a premium for “4G” service, due to the lack of sites (coverage) and forget an indoor test, as unless you have a 4G wimax site on your roof, 4G will be nearly unusable in areas where your 3G device is smoking fast. 

Sprint’s own CEO, Dan Hesse, has stated publicly, on multiple occasions (Sept 2010, Dec 2010) the decision to build and the execution thereof of the Wimax network was a complete failure.  In fact, 11 days before the last presidential election Hesse is quoted in Fierce Wireless as stating he’d like to see the next administration provide “subsidies for WiMAX deployment.”

If Sprint and Clear were to come clean and share their current 4G subscriber #’s and 4G usage, it would show clearly the continued financial losses the attempt at Wimax is costing both companies and those foolish enough to invest in them.  It will show the nation doesn’t need a 4G network with miniscule outdoor coverage and nearly absent in-building coverage. 

So if similar folks and strategies resulted in a failed Nextel merger ($35B Sprint write-off), a failed Nextel network (now with less than 10% of the subscribers it had in 2005), and a failed attempt to launch wimax, why would we trust many of those same folks who are now running and behind the scenes of the LightSquared hype machine?

You wait, my prediction, you’ll see Clear and Lightsquared merge and with a similar level of hype and empty promises of a nationwide network in 30 days, they’ll work to line the pockets of a few key execs, waste a ton of gullible investor $, while financially shifting debt around with the plan to have either Clear or Lightsquared be the sacrificial lamb to take the fall and the debt with it, essentially “laundering” the majority of the valued assets to the remaining, now nearly debt free company. 

On the GPS issue, the claim they will mitigate interference after the fact isn't worth anything due to the fact this kind of interference would be difficult to prove, there are many vendors involved at the component level that the LightSquared spin machine could point a finger at as the problem, by allowing Lightsquared to move forward, you have now created a whole host of problems impacting Smart Grid, other big telecoms like Sprint, Verizon, ATT, the US military, the general public who uses GPS.  Shut the doors on the hype and horror that is LightSquared.

Ralph Nader, where are you buddy?  The public is being conned by Clear/Sprint and Lightsquared is getting ready to do it again.    

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