NEWS ANALYSIS: A U.S. defense spending bill signed by President Barack Obama includes provisions that require LightSquared's wireless LTE network to meet congressional guidelines aimed at preventing GPS interference before the Federal Communications Commission can approve its operation.
deep within the
500-page-plus National Defense Authorization Act of 2012
is a series of
requirements that specify exactly what LightSquared must do before the Federal
Communications Commission can authorize operation of its satellite and
terrestrial based Long-Term Evolution (LTE) wholesale data service.
provision, which appears under the Space Activities section of the defense
funding bill, prohibits the FCC from permitting any operations that interfere
with the military use of GPS in any way. The NDAA, which was signed into law on
Dec. 31, 2011, by President Obama, is best known for the controversy
surrounding the detention of suspected terrorists.
bills such as these typically cover a lot of ground, and the NDAA is no
exception. What's notable in this bill is that both the
House and Senate versions of the bill
contained restrictions on GPS
interference, and in this case the Conference Committee adopted the strictest
provisions of each.
language of the bill is very specific. "The Federal Communications
Commission shall not lift the conditions imposed on commercial terrestrial
operations in the Order and Authorization adopted on January 26, 2011 (DA
11-133), or otherwise permit such operations, until the Commission has resolved
concerns of widespread harmful interference by such commercial terrestrial
operations to covered GPS devices." In this case, covered GPS devices
means basically anything used by the military.
addition to the prohibition of approval, the law also imposes a requirement
that the FCC make available to the appropriate House and Senate committees the
final Working Group report as mandated by the FCC. It is the Working Group that
conducts the interference testing
intended to demonstrate to the FCC that
the LightSquared system does not interfere with GPS, or if it does interfere,
to what extent. The most recent version of the Working Group report, released
late in 2011, showed significant interference with GPS.
legislation also requires the FCC to report to Congress the commission's final
decision regarding whether or not to permit commercial operations of the type
LightSquared is proposing. If the FCC decides to permit such operations, it
must explain to Congress how it resolved any concerns regarding GPS
addition to the reporting requirement from the FCC, the NDAA also requires that
the Secretary of Defense assess the ability of GPS devices to operate without
interference and to determine if commercial operations are interfering with the
military's ability to use GPS.
interference is found, the Secretary of Defense must report to Congress the
nature and severity of the interference, circumstances under which the
interference occurs, and how this might affect the national security interests
of the United States. The Secretary of Defense is also required to report on
how the interference will be eliminated or mitigated, and the cost of such