Despite various reports of LightSquared’s proposed 4G LTE network interfering with GPS reception, the network is demanding that the FCC approve its rights to use the spectrum that it owns. LightSquared further asserts that since GPS devices use unlicensed spectrum, GPS-makers deserve no protection from the FCC. Following a delayed launch of its network due to FCC investigations, a self-entitled LightSquared is demanding that the U.S. regulatory agency approve its rightful use of the spectrum that it owns in a recent petition filing.
A recently leaked government test showed that LightSquared’s GPS network had interfered with numerous commercial GPS systems. A broad launch of LightSquared’s 4G LTE network, of which Sprint and Best Buy have both signed on as partners, could potentially mean unusable GPS navigation devicess from smartphones, in-dash car units, and stand-alone GPS systems as interference would create inaccurate positioning. At the time of the leak, the company countered that the government testing did not account for the fact that LightSquared intends on operating its network at reduced power, thus reducing interference to a minimum.
The company now asserts that after several rounds of independent testing there is no real interference. It also posits that it is the rightful owner of the spectrum and has been the owner for eight years. “It is clear that GPS devices are purposefully designed to look into LightSquared’s licensed spectrum, and given this evidence, we believe decision-makers should consider LightSquared’s legal rights as the licensee.”
As a result, LightSquared says that GPS-makers have had much of the decade to rectify any interference issues and that it was the responsibility of GPS companies that were using spectrum owned by LightSquared.
Moreover, as commercial GPS devices are unlicensed, LightSquared claims that the FCC doesn’t have any obligations to protect those companies.
While I empathize with LightSquared as the rightful owner of spectrum, there is a greater benefit to protecting GPS devices. There are millions of cars with built–in GPS, standalone units, smartphones, tablets, and other navigation devices that would be aversely affected and would create a costly mess to fix. It would be better to try to get things squared away properly before LightSquared’s network launch than to let the market create a mess. There are already enough bad and distracted drivers on the road. Adding inaccurate positioning and location information to the mix may cause more havoc on the streets.
That said, as Sprint is looking to partner with LightSquared on launching its own 4G LTE network to compete better with rivals Verizon Wireless and AT&T, Sprint probably is anxious about getting started with its transition from WiMax to LTE.