Advisory board: LightSquared can’t be fixed

posted at 9:11 am on January 14, 2012 by Ed Morrissey

If the Obama administration plans to use political pressure to rescue LightSquared and its owner, Democratic contributor Philip Falcone, they’d better act quickly.  The more of these reports that get published, the tougher it will be to explain away as anything but a political payoff (via William Amos):

A special board formed to advise the federal government on the clash between Global Positioning System receivers and LightSquared’s proposed cellular/satellite communications network has concluded there are “no practical solutions or mitigations” that would allow the two to coexist on adjacent segments of the radio spectrum.

The National Space-Based Positioning Navigation and Timing Committee, in a letter released this afternoon, said it had reached the “unanimous conclusion” that the LightSquared network would “cause harmful interference to many GPS receivers” as well as a GPS-powered ground-alert system overseen by the Federal Aviation Administration.

“Based upon this testing an analysis, there appear to be no practical solutions or mitigations that would permit the LightSquared broadband service, as proposed, to operate in the next few months or years without significantly interfering with GPS. As a result, no additional testing is warranted at this time.”

LightSquared called foul, claiming that the panel included a non-government employee who works in the GPS industry.  That may be true, but it also has representatives from nine government agencies, including the Air Force and the Commerce Department.  The unanimous conclusion undermines the notion that some sort of untoward influence took place in creating this recommendation, as does the fact that the NTIA also concluded that “[n]o additional testing is required to confirm harmful interference exists.”

The ball now goes back to the FCC’s court, but they have a big problem.  The newly-signed National Defense Authorization Act created a legal restriction on the FCC to ensure that current GPS services remain free of interference, and have to report every 90 days for the next two years on that status.  With two governmental bodies reporting to the FCC that LSQ’s system substantially interferes with GPS systems in commercial, military, and aviation applications, there is almost certainly no legal way that the FCC can sign off on Philip Falcone’s attempt to build a 4G network on the cheap.


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