AEA Testifies Over GPS Interference By Lightsquared High Speed Wireless Network


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AEA Testifies Over GPS Interference By Lightsquared High Speed Wireless Network

By Mike Mitchell

October 17, 2011 - Tim Taylor, president and CEO of FreeFlight Systems, testified on Capitol Hill on behalf of the Aircraft Electronics Association to a national television audience carried live by C-SPAN3. FreeFlight Systems, is an AEA member. 

Located in Waco, Texas, FreeFlight Systems is a manufacturer of professional grade avionics for commercial and military aircraft. The company specializes in the design, development, and production of GPS navigation management systems, GPS/WAAS sensors, and radar altimeters. 

Taylor appeared before the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Small Business hearing to testified on the high-speed wireless network planned by LightSquared, and concerns that the network would interfere with global positioning systems (GPS) used by the aviation industry.

LightSquared is a company that plans to develop a wholesale 4G LTE (Long Term Evolution) wireless broadband communications network integrated with satellite coverage across the United States. In a January 12, 2011 letter to the FCC, National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) chief Lawrence Strickling said that LightSquared's hybrid mobile broadband services raise "significant interference concerns. Grant of the LightSquared waiver would create a new interference environment and it is incumbent on the FCC to deal with the resulting interference issues before any interference occurs. 

Several federal agencies with vital concerns about this spectrum band, including the Departments of Defense, Transportation and Homeland Security, have informed NTIA that they believe the FCC should defer action on the LightSquared waiver until these interference concerns are satisfactorily addressed. On February 17, 2011 the Deputy Secretary of Defense Bill Lynn, along with the head of the USAF Space Command, Gen. William L. Shelton, expressed concerns about potential GPS interference from the LightSquared network. 

Taylor explained to the Committee the absolute validations required for the integrity of aviation GPS systems, and words like "shouldn't" and "most of the time" simply are not used in the certification of aviation products. According to LightSquared Executive Vice President Jeff Carlisle, who also testified at the hearing, LightSquared's "gentleman's agreement" should not affect GPS's signal, most of the time.


The Honorable Sam Graves (R-MO), Chairman of the Committee, challenged Carlisle's claim that LightSquared's current business proposal "shouldn't affect aviation GPS." Graves is an aircraft owner, pilot and member of the General Aviation Caucus. 

Congressman Graves also discussed LightSquared's agreement to only use the lower 10 MHZ of the spectrum. When asked how long LightSquared would only use the lower 10 MHz, Carlisle responded with a "five years or so..." depending on the needs of the business. 

Following the hearing, when asked about LightSquared's commitment to only use the lower 10 MHZ, AEA Vice President of Government and Industry Affairs Ric Peri responded that this "gentleman's agreement" is only as good as the paper it isn't written on; last month the agreement was to use only the lower 5 MHz.

LightSquared controls 59 MHz of United States spectrum (1525-1559 MHz) and received U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) authorization in 2004 to use this L-Band spectrum to build its nationwide 4G-LTE wireless broadband network integrated with satellite coverage. On August 18, 2010, LightSquared announced it had delivered notice to Inmarsat triggering Phase 1 of a Cooperation Agreement between Inmarsat and LightSquared.

This deal increases the amount of contiguous spectrum over North America available to both companies and should help accelerate the build-out of the LightSquared LTE network. LightSquared has an option to implement Phase 2 of the Cooperation Agreement which will add further capacity to its network.

On January 28, 2011, LightSquared delivered notice to Inmarsat triggering Phase 2 of the Cooperation Agreement between Inmarsat and LightSquared in order to meet the accelerated demand for capacity for LightSquared?s 4G-LTE network.


LightSquared?s SkyTerra 1 launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on November 14, 2010, ?completing an important step on the way to providing combination satellite-terrestrial cell phone service in North America.? The satellite, one of the ?largest commercial satellites ever built,? was launched aboard a Russian Proton-M/Briz-M rocket, weighs 5.4 tons, and carries the largest commercial reflector antenna ever put into space.

On March 1, 2001, LightSquared's predecessor, Mobile Satellite Ventures applied to the FCC to use a "highly innovative and spectrum-efficient combination of spot-beam satellites and terrestrial base stations to substantially improve coverage, capacity, and reliability of mobile communications without using any additional spectrum."

On January 26, 2011, The Federal Communications Commission granted LightSquared?s Request for Modification of its Authority for an Ancillary Terrestrial Component. The grant allowed LightSquared and its wholesale customers to offer terrestrial-only devices rather than having to incorporate both satellite and terrestrial services. "We find good cause to grant LightSquared a conditional waiver of Section 25.149(b)(4) of the Commission?s rules for services provided by LightSquared using its MSS (Mobile Satellite Services) L-band spectrum,? the FCC noted in its report.

Companies that provide global positioning systems, in addition to the United States Air Force, the operator of the GPS system, opposed the FCC waiver, saying that more time was needed to resolve concerns that LightSquared's service might interfere with their satellite-based offerings. LightSquared has promised to work with GPS providers and give the FCC monthly updates on a resolution to interference concerns.

In June 2011, LightSquared unveiled a new plan for deploying its network which would use the lower frequency band of 1526-1536MHz (23MHz away from GPS) for the initial deployment and delay use of the upper band closer to GPS until a later date. They also proposed a 3dB reduction in the base station radiated power.


As of early October 2011, Lightsquared has threatened to sue the FCC if its network is not approved. The company also released a open letter claiming negligible interference with existing GPS users. 

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