FCC urged to squelch LightSquared's spectrum

November 10, 2011

The Coalition to Save Our GPS is seeking the immediate revocation of LightSquared's ability to transmit in its upper band of the mobile satellite spectrum. The company's proposed telecommunications network has become a bureaucratic battleground over signal interference with aviation navigation and other GPS users.

The coalition filed its request with the Federal Communications Commission on Nov. 8, citing test evidence that it said shows that LightSquared could never be able to use the upper band for the terrestrial operations portion of its network. The FCC should issue a “prompt ruling” that forecloses the option of using the upper band, an action that would “also create a much more constructive and solutions-oriented process for completion of consideration of LightSquared's proposed lower band operations,” the coalition said in a news release.

AOPA is a member of the multi-industry coalition that was formed to resolve the “serious threat” posed by the network to the reliability of GPS, which the organization describes as a national utility used daily by millions of Americans. Those users include “federal agencies, state and local governments, first responders, airlines, mariners, civil engineering, construction and surveying, agriculture, and everyday consumers in their cars and on handheld devices.”

Much of the opposition to LightSquared has focused on its plan to “repurpose” its allocated spectrum to accommodate ground-based signals. Tests ordered by the FCC as a condition of its January 2011 grant of a waiver for the terrestrial component of the network have shown that such use can overwhelm the much-lower-powered adjacent GPS transmissions.

In its filing, the coalition told the FCC that LightSquared has “offered no solution—because none exists—for resolving interference” from upper-band transmissions. The nature of the threat posed by LightSquared's network to GPS was the subject of this AOPA Live interview.

LightSquared has recently launched several aggressive media responses to its opponents, including posting on its website a Nov. 3 newspaper commentary describing the company as being on a “collision course” with GPS. The venture, which describes itself as the owner of “valuable high quality spectrum assets,” is largely capitalized with $2.9 billion from Harbinger Capital Partners, an investment entity that LightSquared characterizes on its website as employing “a fundamental approach to deep value and distressed credit investing.” LightSquared says it is also funded through an additional $2.3 billion in debt and equity financing.

Some members of Congress have called for an inquiry into whether politics helped speed the FCC waiver process that granted LightSquared's initial development of its network.

Dan Namowitz

Dan Namowitz | Aviation Writer

Dan Namowitz is an aviation writer and flight instructor. He has been a pilot since 1985 and an instructor since 1990.