FCC LightSquared Briefing Intended to Calm GPS Concerns
WASHINGTON: The Federal Communications Commission today held an “in-person-only press briefing” on LightSquared, the privately funded
company vying to launch a hybrid terrestrial-satellite high-speed broadband
network in the United States. The gathering took place today
after the commission’s regular meeting. A spokeswoman responding after-the-fact said the event was a background briefing. Todd Shields of Bloomberg reported that the commission was trying to find ways for LightSquared and global positioning systems to “co-exist.” John Eggerton of Broadcasting & Cable, who was also on the invite list, reported that the commission was intent upon protecting GPS while promoting LightSquared’s innovative broadband provision proposal.
The commission granted LightSquared mobile satellite service licenses in L-Band
spectrum in January, along with a conditional waiver for terrestrial use. Controversy
arose when field trials revealed that terrestrial transmitters interfered with GPS receivers. Federal agencies confirmed the phenomenon. The
National Executive Committee for Space-Based Positioning, Navigation and Timing
and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration said their
tests found “significant detrimental impacts to all GPS applications” and
recommended that the proposal be put on hold until the interference issue was
LightSquared filed a revised proposal with the commission in late June. The
plan was to launch at lower frequencies non-adjacent to GPS spectrum, and to
cut its transmission power levels by half. LightSquared secured an agreement to
launch on a block of spectrum controlled by Inmarsat. LightSquared claimed the
revised plan would eliminate interference for about 99 percent of GPS
receivers, which have notoriously poor signal rejection capability.
Broadcasters have been watching LightSquared, which conceivably could relieve
some of the pressure on TV spectrum because it would help fulfill the call for
wireless broadband. They are also affected in that single-frequency networks
and unlicensed white-space devices will coordinate through the GPS technology.
Unlicensed devices, on the cusp of deployment, will operate on open spectrum between
TV channels, and will locate that spectrum through the use of GPS.
The FCC subsequently solicited public comments on LightSquared’s revised
proposal. The docket, opened June 30, has more than 2,800 filings. so far.
Reply comments are not due until Monday, Aug. 15. The commission’s decision
about whether or not to allow LightSquared to proceed is not expected until
September, so today’s presser was unexpected. LightSquared reps referred inquiries to the commission. A commission spokeswoman responded after the press conference that it was a background briefing about the proceeding and the conditional waiver process.
While its regulatory fate hangs in the balance, LightSquared has continued to
sign on customers, secure funding and do shared network deals. It cut a $9
billion, 15-year deal with Sprint in July allowing it use of Sprint’s terrestrial
infrastructure, saving it billions in build-out costs.
If LightSquared succeeds, it will be the first to incorporate satellite and
terrestrial components to provide 4G LTE broadband services. The network will
be available only to wholesale customers. It announced signing on its ninth
one, ClearTalk, yesterday.
LightSquared is funded through Harbinger Ventures and private contributions
from Harbinger’s principal, Philip Falcone. UBS and JP Morgan have also
invested. The company said it expects to sink $14 billion of private money into
the network over an eight-year period. Its agreement for the L-Band licenses
call for it to deploy service to at least 260 million Americans by 2015.
LightSquared said the Sprint deal puts it about a year ahead of its mandated
The company “is currently conducting technical testing, which will run through
2011,” according to a spokesman.
~ Deborah D. McAdams
See . . .
August 8, 2011: “LightSquared Signs 9th Wholesale User”
LightSquared has signed yet another wholesale deal, this one with ClearTalk
Wireless, a provider of flat-rate wireless phone services in the
Southwest and West. The two entered into a 4G bilateral roaming agreement.
August 3, 2011:
Continues Generating Commission Controversey”
The Federal Communications Commission docket on the proposed network has
more than 2,700 comments on file, many from individual GPS users objecting to
its deployment even with modifications.
July 28, 2011:
“LightSquared, Sprint Cut $9 Billion,
15-Year Shared Services Deal”
This agreement is expected to lower network capital and operating expenses for
LightSquared by more than $13 billion over the next eight years in comparison
with the cost of a stand-alone network build.
July 11, 2011:
“NTIA Releases LightSquared GPS Interference
A simulation of the completed network of base stations “would result in
degradation or loss of GPS function at standoff distances of a few kilometers
extending to space operations,” it said.
June 30, 2011:
“LightSquared Blasts GPS Receiver Quality”
LightSquared today spit nails back at the global positioning system community
for building shoddy receivers.