LightSquared Vows to Continue Despite Terrestrial Network Nix
NTIA concludes there’s ‘no practical way to mitigate’ GPS interference
February 14, 2012
WASHINGTON: LightSquared is not giving up on its proposed
wireless broadband network despite losing its authority to launch on a
“LightSquared is confident that the parties will continue the on-going efforts
to explore all engineering options and alternatives to find a solution to this
difficult issue,” the Reston, Va., company said in a statement.
LightSquared contends that the federal agencies testing its proposed 4G LTE
network relied on flawed data. The National Telecommunications and Information
Administration last night recommended that LightSquared not be allowed to
commence terrestrial operations due to interference with global positioning
“Based on the NTIA’s independent evaluation of the testing and analysis
performed over the last several months, we conclude that LightSquared’s
proposed mobile broadband network will impact GPS services and that there is no
practical way to mitigate the potential interference at this time,” wrote NTIA
Assistant Secretary Lawrence Strickling in a letter
to Julius Genachowski, chairman of the Federal Communications Commission. The
FCC in turn said it would not let LightSquared launch.
“The commission will not lift the prohibition on LightSquared,” said the FCC’s
The prohibition refers to a conditional waiver LightSquared received about a
year ago from the FCC. The waiver would have allowed it to operate terrestrial
transmitters in L-band spectrum--which is designated primarily for satellite operations—as
long as it didn’t interfere with GPS devices. Tests indicated LightSquared’s transmissions
don’t bleed into the adjacent L-band spectrum used by GPS devices; rather,
those devices are not designed to reject terrestrial network interference.
LightSquared campaigned to equip GPS devices with signal rejection filters.
Strickling acknowledged that filters would work on consumer GPS devices, but
outfitting every one already in the market would be a logistical nightmare.
“While GPS equipment developers may be able to mitigate these issues via new
technology in the future, the time and money required for federal commercial
and private sector users to replace technology in the field and in the
marketplace, on aircraft and in integrated national security systems cannot support
the scheduled deployment of terrestrial services proposed by LightSquared,” he
LightSquared recently asked the FCC to make a declaratory ruling that GPS
devices had no right to interference protection from operations outside their assigned
spectrum. The FCC’s International Bureau instead is proposing to vacate the
conditional waiver and indefinitely suspend LightSquared’s authority to build a
terrestrial network in the L-band.
It is unclear how LightSquared will proceed since its operating model relied on
a terrestrial network, with satellite transmissions filling in coverage gaps. The venture represents the primary investment of Harbinger Capital, which has
put at least $3 billion toward it. A New York-based hedge fund managed
by Phil Falcone, Harbinger lost 47 percent last year on LightSquared, according
The news service today reported
that one investor, the Jefferies Group, is spreading the risk of a $190 million
loan to Harbinger with a syndication deal that defaults if Falcone is indicted.
He and other Harbinger principals are the target of a fraud probe by the
Securities and Exchange Commission, The
Wall Street Journal said in December. A
company executive said last month that LightSquared had enough money to last
LightSquared’s reaction last night to the NTIA’s conclusion reflects its contention that
tests were “rigged”
against it: “The FCC should take the NTIA’s recommendation with a generous
helping of salt,” the company said.
Both the NTIA and the FCC agreed with LightSquared that GPS receiver
standards should be established.
“NTIA recognizes the importance that receiver standards could play as a part of
a forward-looking model for spectrum management even beyond the immediate issue
of GPS,” Strickling wrote.
Strickling said the NTIA would ask the Department of Transportation to
“initiate an effort to examine what changes could be made to the existing
standard to eventually make certified GPS aviation receivers compatible with a
signal in the lower 10 MHz,” where LightSquared proposed to operate. “NTIA will
work with federal agencies to review receiver requirements for federal
The FCC’s Sun said the proceeding “revealed challenges to removing regulatory
barriers on spectrum that restrict use of that spectrum for mobile broadband. This
includes receivers that pick up signals from spectrum uses in neighboring
bands… Congress, the FCC, other federal agencies, and private sector
stakeholders must work together in a concerted effort to reduce regulatory
barriers and free up spectrum for mobile broadband. Part of this effort should
address receiver performance.”
Sun said the FCC would issue a Public Notice seeking comment on NTIA’s
conclusions, and its proposals regarding LightSquared today.
~ Deborah D. McAdams