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FCC proposes nixing LightSquared plans

The Federal Communications Commission proposed pulling the plug on LightSquared's plans to launch a new national LTE 4G network after the National Telecommunications and Information Administration concluded there is no practical way to mitigate interference the network would cause to GPS receivers.

In a letter dated Feb. 14 to FCC chairman Julius Genachowski, the NTIA added that while future technologies might allow GPS receiver manufacturers to overcome interference from the network, legacy equipment would not be protected.

The letter from Lawrence Strickling, assistant secretary for communications and information and administrator of NTIA, said "the time and money required for federal, commercial and private sector users to replace technology in the field and the marketplace, on aircraft and in integrated national security systems cannot support the scheduled deployment of terrestrial services proposed by LightSquared."

Last January, the FCC issued a conditional waiver order authorizing LightSquared to move forward with its deployment only after it proved via a commission-prescribed process that its system would not cause interference to GPS devices. LightSquared planned to use 1525MHz to 1559MHz for its Ancillary Terrestrial Service deployment, which raised concerns of potential interference among the GPS industry. While the company modified its spectrum use plans, that was not enough to satisfy those with interference concerns.

In response to the NTIA letter, the FCC International Bureau released a public notice Feb. 15 seeking comment on its proposed vacatur of the order granting the conditional waiver and modification of LightSquared's satellite license to suspend its Advanced Terrestrial Component authorization to an extent consistent with the NTIA letter. (Comments are due March 1.)

A statement from LightSquared chairman and CEO Sanjiv Ahuja posted on the company's website said the commission's decision to nix the network not only harms his company but the American public as well. According to the company, it has spent nearly $4 billion on the broadband network after the FCC amended LightSquared's plan in 2010 for a ground network to mandate a national broadband network.

"There can be no more devastating blow to private industry and confidence in the consistency of the FCC's decision-making process," the Ahuja said in the statement. The LightSquared CEO added the company remains committed to finding a solution.

Phil Kurz is a contributing editor to TV Tech. He has written about TV and video technology for more than 30 years and served as editor of three leading industry magazines. He earned a Bachelor of Journalism and a Master’s Degree in Journalism from the University of Missouri-Columbia School of Journalism.