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LightSquared – It's Not Dead Yet...

As reported last week, the NTIA letter from Lawrence E. Strickling stating GPS was not compatible with GPS systems used by the government, aviation, and others, commercial and personal has put a halt to LightSquared's plans to roll out a terrestrial network using its L-band spectrum. It appears, however, the FCC and LightSquared have not given up on eventually finding a solution to the interference issues.

Last week the FCC issued a Public Notice inviting comment on the NTIA letter. The Public Notice appears to put some blame on the GPS community for the problems, outlining the history of the proceeding to justify the decision to grant LightSquared the conditional waiver.

The Public Notice states, "The Commission received and incorporated into each of those rules extensive input from the public and federal agencies. In particular, the Commission adopted recommendations offered by the Global Positioning System (GPS) Industry Council and NTIA to protect against harmful emissions from MSS/ATC operations into other bands, including the GPS frequency bands. No party in those proceedings raised any issue of possible overload interference to GPS receivers. Concerns were raised about overload interference from ATC operations in the L-Band, where LightSquared is now operating, to Inmarsat mobile satellite terminals. The Commission fully resolved that issue in its 2005 rulemaking order."

The deadline for comments on the NTIA letter is March 1, 2012

The GPS interference issue is causing problems for LightSquared. Michelle Maisto writes LightSquared's Latest Troubles Are with Satellite Partner Inmarsat. Maisto reports, "Inmarsat announced in a Feb. 20 press release that LightSquared has failed to make a $56.25 million payment, due upon completion of a "Phase 1 transition." Consequently, Inmarsat has issued a notice of default to LightSquared, in keeping with the terms of the pair's agreement." A LightSquared Statement Regarding Inmarsat Notice states, "LightSquared has raised several matters that require resolution before the first phase comes to a close. The terms of the agreement allow for additional time to resolve pending questions before phase one is complete and the final payment is due. LightSquared is committed to fulfilling its business plan to bring world-class wireless broadband connectivity to millions of Americans and believes that Inmarsat will remain an important partner in the company's future endeavors."

Doug Lung is one of America's foremost authorities on broadcast RF technology. He has been with NBC since 1985 and is currently vice president of broadcast technology for NBC/Telemundo stations.