Nine federal agencies decided that none of LightSquared's proposals for its LTE 4G broadband network would overcome significant interference with GPS devices. The National Space-Based Positioning, Navigation, and Timing Executive Committee (PNT ExComm) announced recently that the nine federal agencies that make up the body made the decision unanimously.
PNT ExComm released a memo with its findings after being involved in testing the proposed network at the request of the Federal Communications Commission and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), which were providing LightSquared opportunities to provide alternatives to its original proposed network.
Both the original and modified proposals by LightSquared would cause harmful interference to many GPS receivers, the PNT ExComm chairmen said in the memo. The agency also said a Federal Aviation Administration analysis had concluded the network would be incompatible with aircraft safety systems.
"Based upon this testing and analysis, there appear to be no practical solutions or mitigations that would permit the LightSquared broadband service, as proposed, to operate in the next few months or years without significantly interfering with GPS. As a result, no additional testing is warranted at this time," the memo said.
LightSquared reacted to the decision by claiming "bias and inappropriate collusion" by the government. It claimed the process used to evaluate its original and proposed plans was compromised by a conflict of interest since one of the government's key advisers on the matter is a board member of Trimble, a manufacturer of GPS receiver equipment.
The company further called for an investigation into the alleged conflicts of interest by the PNT Advisory Board, which advises the PNT ExComm. LightSquared said both the PNT Advisory Board and PNT ExComm had abandoned their commitment to test GPS receiver filters that LightSquared believes can solve the interference issue.
"Under an agreement worked out directly between representatives of Trimble-the same company that has paid for a year-long lobbying campaign against LightSquared's network-LightSquared was specifically excluded from the testing process," the press release said. "The devices selected as part of the most recent round of testing include numerous obsolete and off-market GPS receivers that nearly guaranteed failure. Power levels used for testing were 32 times that of real-world conditions further stacking the deck in favor of GPS industry interests."
The Coalition to Save Our GPS, which was formed in response to concerns raised by LightSquared's network interference, responded to the recent announcement in a press release.
"Every set of independent technical studies has confirmed that LightSquared's proposed operations would create widespread interference to critical GPS uses," the Coalition to Save our GPS said in a press statement. "The test results which were the subject of the Jan. 13, 2011, government conclusions yet again confirm the interference problem. The results also confirm that interference will not only affect high-precision GPS receivers, but also millions of GPS devices used by consumers every day in their cars, trucks and boats. In addition, the most recent studies confirm interference to critical aviation safety systems.
"LightSquared has been afforded every possible opportunity to make its technical case, and has failed to demonstrate that it can avoid interference to many critical GPS based activities. Over the last year, it has proposed numerous modifications to its proposals which it claimed would solve the interference problem. Each of these proposals has been extensively evaluated and none have been found adequate to eliminate widespread interference to GPS. No credible, independent expert or organization has come forward to support LightSquared's claims of non-interference to millions of existing GPS devices.
"We welcome the PNT Executive Committee's unanimous conclusion on behalf of the nine government departments and agencies that `no practical solutions or mitigations' exist that would allow LightSquared to operate without causing significant interference to GPS. At this point, there is no evidence that any further modifications to its proposal would yield a different conclusion. Because of this, the Committee's conclusion that it is time to end technical studies and that the proposal is not viable is supported by overwhelming technical evidence."