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FCC wants more testing of LightSquared’s network


So much for a mid-September approval. Rather than give LightSquared the go ahead to deploy its LTE network, the FCC today called for more testing on the impact that it would have on commercial and government GPS services.

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That’s both good news and bad news for LightSquared. It’s bad news because it didn’t get the fast-track approval from regulators it wanted (CP: LightSquared sees no obstacles left blocking LTE network), but such a green light was unlikely given the mounting opposition to LightSquared’s plans. However, it’s good news for LightSquared that the FCC didn’t pull its terrestrial network waiver completely. Now both the government and the commercial GPS industry are open to the idea of more testing to determine if the interference problems between LightSquared’s LTE network and GPS receivers can be worked out (CP: Sorting out the LightSquared GPS interference mess).

In its public notice filed Tuesday, the FCC said the first round of testing conducted by a technical working group composed of LightSquared, government and GPS representatives, focused on now outdated deployment plans. Since the TWG did its work, LightSquared has amended its rollout plans twice: first agreeing to deploy LTE in the lower portion of its L-band spectrum and second to decrease on-the-ground power levels to prevent LTE signals from overpowering GPS receivers (CP: LightSquared proposes swapping half its network for FCC approval and GPS industry lightens its tone over latest LightSquared plan). As it stands, TWG’s first batch of tests found that interference would be a problem, but the FCC wants to conduct the same tests under the new deployment scenarios LightSquared proposes.

The FCC also noted what could become the stickiest issue LightSquared faces: that none of the deployment proposals solve the interference problems for high-precision receivers used by the aviation, agriculture and heavy industry. LightSquared has proposed retrofitting existing high-precision receivers to block out LightSquared’s LTE signals and the creation of a dedicated band for future high-precision devices. No such commercially available filter has been tested, but LightSquared has said it is working with vendors to come up with such a solution.

LightSquared obviously has to jump a few more hurdles than it hoped, but there are signs that it might actually be able to get its network built. It’s biggest opponent, the Coalition to Save Our GPS, last week said that LightSquared`s latest amended network plan was a “positive step”—a remarkable change in tone from its previous claims that LTE and GPS could never co-exist in the L-band. But the coalition is still extremely critical of LightSquared’s proposed fix for high-precision receivers. The coalition, however, like the FCC has called for more testing, which would imply that some future compromise could be possible (CP: A compromise between LightSquared and GPS may be possible).


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