Threat to GPS, NextGen seen in FCC proposal

January 18, 2011

AOPA is urging the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) not to allow any expanded use of radio spectrum for mobile-satellite services (MSS) that could interfere with GPS and undermine the Next Generation air transportation system (NextGen).

“Due to the extensive reliance on GPS by the general aviation community, any interference source is perceived as a safety threat,” said AOPA Senior Vice President of Government Affairs Melissa Rudinger in a Jan. 14 letter to the FCC.

The FAA has also expressed concerns about the broadband-use proposal.

The FCC proposed in an Aug.16 notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) to modify its authority “to further the provision of terrestrial broadband services in the MSS bands.” The FCC said that its proposals “will lay the groundwork for providing additional flexibility in use of the 2 GHz spectrum in the future.”

The FCC’s NPRM also “launches a broader inquiry into how the Commission can best increase the value, utilization, innovation and investment in the spectrum for terrestrial services throughout the 2 GHz, Big LEO and L bands, while ensuring that the United States market, as a whole, continues to have robust mobile satellite service capabilities,” said the document.

AOPA expressed concern that the FCC is considering granting expanded broadband authority to network operator Lightsquared before the FCC completes the rulemaking process on its August NPRM. Lightsquared applied for expanded broadband authority in November. On Nov. 15, Lightsquared announced the launch of a Boeing 702HP satellite “designed to provide wireless mobile services to millions of subscribers.” It described the launch as a major step in its creation of a network “combining satellite and terrestrial technologies.”

Rudinger wrote that AOPA is “deeply concerned” that the FCC “will not adequately address the interference issues that will emerge” from proposed changes in the use of spectrum. She called on the FCC to study the proposals further, and where necessary impose heavy restrictions “on any operator of a terrestrial system” until the aviation community has gathered and validated data showing that no safety-of-life functions of GPS would be jeopardized by MSS.

In two letters to the FCC, the FAA has also expressed concerns about interference with air traffic control functions and called for more testing and evaluation.