LightSquared Demands That the FCC Perform Tests

By Wayne Rash  |  Posted 2012-01-19 Print this article Print


Unfortunately, LightSquared is going to have to find a sugar daddy in someone who isn't running for re-election. It's hard to believe that anyone in Congress is going to anger millions of GPS owning voters in an election year, regardless of how much money is stuffed into various PACs.

At this point it would seem that LightSquared is running out of options. The panel that tested its technology said it interferes with GPS. The Federal Communications Commission granted LightSquared the right to use the spectrum under an absolute requirement that it not interfere with GPS. The company, meanwhile, is claiming that it owns the radio spectrum in question, but in reality, the frequencies were originally allocated for satellite mobile operations. When LightSquared found out that its technology needed ground-based repeaters to work, it effectively tried to convert a satellite frequency to a terrestrial frequency. In the process, it decided it needed approximately 40,000 high-power ground-based transmitters.

"LightSquared does not like the test results, so it is attacking the testers," said Jim Kirkland, vice president of Trimble Navigation and a member of The Coalition to Save Our GPS, a group opposed to the LightSquared plan. "Last Friday's report reflects the unanimous view of nine different federal government departments and agencies that LightSquared's proposals would interfere with critical functions, including the Department of Defense, the FAA and the Department of Homeland Security. The technical evidence speaks for itself."

LightSquared, in its statement challenging the test results, has asked the FCC to take over the testing itself. This is something that the FCC has already said it won't do, and the PNT executive committee was formed by the government for specifically that purpose.

Now that Sprint has set a deadline that LightSquared can't meet, it would seem that its days are numbered. The tests have shown that its technology doesn't work as the company promised it would. It hasn't shown a realistic means of preventing interference on a massive scale, and it's about to lose the support of Sprint, which was originally planning to build the terrestrial portion of the network.

What's left? Not much. It's hard to imagine a sane investor pouring more money into what appears to be a lost cause unless their goal is to gobble up the remaining assets, such as the spectrum, for pennies on the dollar. Now that Ichan has bought some of the LightSquared debt, it seems like he's taken what is probably the fatal bite. The only remaining question is how long it will take LightSquared to finish bleeding to death and expire. 

Wayne Rash Wayne Rash is a Senior Analyst for eWEEK Labs and runs the magazineÔÇÖs Washington Bureau. Prior to joining eWEEK as a Senior Writer on wireless technology, he was a Senior Contributing Editor and previously a Senior Analyst in the InfoWorld Test Center. He was also a reviewer for Federal Computer Week and Information Security Magazine. Previously, he ran the reviews and events departments at CMP's InternetWeek.

He is a retired naval officer, a former principal at American Management Systems and a long-time columnist for Byte Magazine. He is a regular contributor to Plane & Pilot Magazine and The Washington Post.

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