January 27, 2011
By Dan Namowitz
A communications network operator whose plan to expand its use of the radio spectrum triggered concerns about interference with GPS signals must not proceed until it assures GPS users and regulators that no conflict exists.
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) issued an order Jan. 26 imposing compliance requirements on mobile-satellite services network operator LightSquared as a condition of authorizing its use of bandwidth close to the frequencies used for GPS.
AOPA requested assurances from the FCC in a Jan. 14 letter from Senior Vice President of Government Affairs Melissa Rudinger that potential threats to general aviation’s extensive use of GPS be thoroughly investigated before authorization is granted. GPS forms the backbone of the FAA’s Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen). The FAA has also expressed concerns about potential signal interference.
The FCC’s order details steps that LightSquared must take to assure that its technology does not conflict with GPS navigation signals.
“LightSquared states that it would accept, as a condition of the grant of its request, the creation of a process to address interference concerns regarding GPS and, further, that this process must be completed to the Commission’s satisfaction before LightSquared commences offering commercial service,” the order said. “Further, LightSquared commits to working diligently and cooperatively with the Commission, NTIA and the Federal agencies, and the GPS community to help resolve the interference issues through a rigorous process that can address these issues in a comprehensive manner.”
Under the order, FCC staff will assist in setting up the working group.
The FCC set a Feb. 25 deadline for LightSquared to make an initial report on the process. The commission also ordered monthly progress updates until a final reporting deadline of June 15.
LightSquared issued a statement about the order on its website. “To assure that its rollout of full commercial service will satisfy the concerns about the possibility of inadvertent harmful interference to certain GPS devices, LightSquared pledges a diligent effort to work with all interested parties in an open and comprehensive process to address those concerns,” the company said.
Dan Namowitz is an aviation writer and flight instructor. He has been a pilot since 1985 and an instructor since 1990.
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The Skyhawk’s cockpit is sweltering as the pilot monitors the engine oil temperature and waits for the center controller to call.
The FAA’s “lack of an executable plan, unresolved technical issues, and ineffective collaboration with industry,” are “programmatic challenges” to moving toward the Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen), Department of Transportation Assistant Inspector General for Aviation Audits Matthew Hampton says.
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