NEWS ANALYSIS: Satellite LTE company LightSquared has petitioned the FCC to confirm its right to use frequencies that block GPS in advance of congressional action that would prohibit license approval.
When LightSquared, the
company that promises to create a national satellite network for Long-Term
Evolution data traffic, suddenly sprang into action at the end of December to
demand that the Federal
Communications Commission confirm its right to use frequencies that interfere
, it was more than just the company's usual aggressive behavior.
It is, in fact, an effort to get the
FCC to act on the company's license application in advance of the signing of
the Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2012. This bill, which has been
approved with strong bipartisan support in both houses of Congress, contains a
provision that prohibits the FCC from approving LightSquared's operation if it
interferes in any way with the use of GPS by the military.
"Such approval, in view of the recent
test results of the LightSquared network's effect on GPS receivers, would be
prohibited by our legislation," said Rep. Mike Turner (R-Ohio), chairman of the
House Armed Services Committee's Subcommittee on Strategic Forces. "The FCC
should take no actions inconsistent with the bipartisan and bicameral position
of the Congress that our first goal must be to protect DOD GPS systems."
makes a big deal of contrasting GPS receivers as
"unlicensed" while pointing out that its service is licensed. The fact is that
this is really a smoke screen being raised by LightSquared, which is trying to
bolster its position as being the rightful user of its planned frequencies
adjacent to the frequencies used by GPS services. First of all, the FCC doesn't
normally license radio receivers of any kind, GPS or otherwise. This is why you
don't need to get an FCC license for your car radio.
Second, the GPS system is the property
of the U.S. government. It was designed and implemented by the U.S. Air Force,
and is currently operated by the Air Force and the Department of Commerce.
While the service is in use by millions of civilians around the world, its
primary purpose is to provide precise location information for the U.S.
military and for public safety and law enforcement organizations.
The fact that the government allows
civilian use of the system is a boon almost beyond measure that has eased the
lives of millions. But ultimately it's a military system.
But in addition to the military
purposes, GPS has also been adopted by the U.S. Department of Transportation as
an approved means of aircraft navigation. In fact, the Federal Aviation
Administration is already in the process of allowing aircraft, including
commercial airliners, to fly directly to their destinations, instead of
following a complex system of airways developed decades ago when airliners
navigated using radio signals from ground stations.