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LightSquared gets desperate, seeks regulatory changes to satisfy GPS debacle

Zachary Lutz

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If we were the betting type -- and hell, some of us really are -- we'd wager a crisp ten spot that LightSquared isn't going to assuage the FCC's concerns over those pesky GPS interference issues in the next few weeks. After previously stating that the interference test reports were rigged by GPS insiders, the upstart LTE network is now getting political with its argument and is calling on the FCC to institute new standards for GPS equipment. LightSquared contends that current GPS devices on the market are poorly designed and purposefully encroach on the company's licensed spectrum. Of course, this change would do little to remedy the millions of interference prone / (causing?) devices on the market, but LightSquared notes that, by the FCC's own admission, GPS receivers must "reasonably discriminate against the reception of signals outside their allocated spectrum." With the company's latest argument flying high atop the flagpole, it begs the question, will anybody salute? You'll find LightSquared's statement in its entirety after the break.

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LightSquared Calls on FCC to Initiate Receiver Reliability Standards, Set Level Playing Field for Spectrum Licensees

RESTON, Va., Feb. 7, 2012 /PRNewswire/ -- Today, LightSquared asked the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to develop receiver reliability standards for unlicensed GPS devices to ensure they perform reliably and take into account licensed users in nearby bands. While the company's request is specifically focused on commercial GPS receivers designed to receive signals in the 1559-1610 MHz band, company officials reinforced on a call with reporters that receiver reliability standards would create a level playing field across the entire U.S. spectrum.

Two rounds of testing by independent and government entities have confirmed that the interference experienced by the commercial GPS receivers is the result of an industry decision to design and sell poorly filtered devices that purposefully depend on spectrum licensed to LightSquared for accuracy. If sensible standards were in place, the GPS industry would not be facing the current interference problems and consumers would benefit from a more efficient use of spectrum. Furthermore, the way would be clear for LightSquared to launch its new nationwide wireless broadband network funded by a $14 billion private investment in the nation's broadband infrastructure.

The FCC itself noted that GPS receivers bear responsibility to "reasonably discriminate against the reception of signals outside their allocated spectrum." In the case of GPS receivers, the manufacturers not only fail to reasonably protect themselves from adjacent band interference, but they exacerbate the problem with a design that purposely relies on unlicensed spectrum in the adjacent band -- spectrum that is licensed only to LightSquared. The FCC has also noted that the GPS manufacturers relied on this design even though "extensive terrestrial operations have been anticipated in the L-band for at least 8 years."

Given the FCC's previous statement on this issue, LightSquared believes it is time for the agency to take a close look at targeted rules aimed specifically at the 1559-1610 MHz band. LightSquared suggests that any new rules should ensure that spectrum is used more efficiently by allowing licensees the full use of their spectrum under FCC rules.

While the agency has in the past depended on market forces to regulate receiver performance, in this case such forces have failed. The result is that a relatively small number of users are standing in the way of a $14 billion private investment in a nationwide wireless broadband service that will provide enhanced competition for more than 260 million Americans.

Adoption of suitable standards would correct market failures and protect consumers from the continued proliferation of devices that are not designed to operate in their own spectrum allocations. In addition, standards would protect end-users in the United States who ultimately purchase and rely on these products.

In a separate petition to the FCC in December, LightSquared asked the agency to confirm the company's right to use its licensed spectrum and confirm that commercial GPS manufacturers have no right to interference protection from LightSquared's network since they are not licensed users.

Coverage: GigaOM
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