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IT think tank sides with LightSquared on GPS spectrum issues


An IT think tank has lent its weight to LightSquared’s claims that the commercial GPS industry is to blame for the interference problems their devices would experience if LightSquared’s long-term evolution (LTE) network goes live.

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The Information Technology & Innovation Foundation has filed detailed comments with the FCC stating that high-precision GPS device makers have ignored government warnings guidelines in their receiver designs, purposely building devices that listen into LightSquared’s L-band frequencies. Those comments largely echo the claims LightSquared has been making for several weeks (CP: LightSquared plays the patriot card).

LightSquared is trying to build a nationwide LTE network over its L-band satellite spectrum and has received conditional FCC approval. The GPS industry, however, is attempting to block the network as more and more evidence emerges that the high-powered LTE signals would overpower low-power GPS receivers using neighboring bands (CP: Sorting out the LightSquared GPS interference mess).

LightSquared, in turn, has proposed creating an ad hoc guard band in the upper portion of its spectrum closest to the GPS bands (CP: LightSquared proposes swapping half its network for FCC approval), which technical studies have determined would solve the interference problems for a majority of receivers. But problems would remain with high-precision receivers that reach far into LightSquared’s L-band frequencies in order to improve their accuracy.

Central to the debate is whether LightSquared has a responsibility to protect those high-precision services even though they’re technically trespassing on its airwaves, or if the GPS industry is responsible for designing receivers that filter out LightSquared’s LTE signals.

The ITIF bills itself as a non-partisan policy think tank that seeks to advise lawmakers and regulators on Internet and information technology issues. It was founded by the Information Technology Industry Council, the membership of which is a who’s who of Silicon Valley and global telecom technology firms. Apple, Google, Cisco, Nokia, Ericsson, Alcatel-Lucent and Qualcomm are among the dozens of founders. The ITIF has sought to influence U.S. tech policy in the past, including advocating for more broadband stimulus funding.

Perhaps in light of its larger mission, the ITIF set the LightSquared-GPS debate in bigger perspective, challenging the GPS industry’s claim that the L-band and other mobile satellite services (MSS) should be reserved solely for satellite communications and other low-power communications technologies:

“We believe that the significance of this matter goes far beyond the immediate question of granting LightSquared (LS) the right to operate an ancillary terrestrial component, as it establishes precedent in determining how future rights conflicts between spectrum-based applications and networks will be resolved. The consumer demand for satellite-based two-way communication systems is not as strong as once envisioned, while the demand for terrestrial broadband is intense and growing. It is therefore critical for the Federal government to repurpose satellite spectrum for terrestrial broadband use.”

LightSquared isn’t the only satellite operator attempting to transform itself into a terrestrial mobile broadband operator. Dish Network recently bought the S-band assets of TerreStar and ICO and is also seeking FCC permission to build a ground-based LTE network (Unfiltered: Dish proposes stepping into LightSquared’s shoes). The ITIF implied that if LightSquared’s plans are killed outright it would cast a shadow over other plans to repurpose for mobile broadband other satellite bands. At the very least, it may scare other operators away from the bands. When Dish bid for bankrupt TerreStar’s spectrum it didn’t see a single challenger from the mobile operators (CP: Given LightSquared’s troubles are operators shying away from the satellite bands?).

The ITIF, however, isn’t advocating that the FCC issue a blanket approval of LightSquared’s plans. It claimed that studies conducted by the GPS industry and LightSquared are vague on the details (CP: LightSquared lashes back at GPS industry). A closer look into viable filter technologies is necessary, the ITIF claims, as well as further study into who should bear the financial responsibility of implementing those filters.


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