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LightSquared to defend project in open letter in newspapers

The company said its US$14 billion private investment will help create 75,000 jobs over five years

LightSquared said late Sunday that it planned to run the next day in major newspapers in the U.S. an open letter explaining its position over the controversy surrounding its LTE (long-term evolution) network, particularly concerns about its interference with GPS (global positioning system).

Demand for broadband wireless will outstrip the current total spectrum available in the U.S. within the next 24 months, "jeopardizing everything from the smartphones and tablets we love to the emergency responder services we rely upon to keep us safe", LightSquared's CEO Sanjiv Ahuja said in the open letter. "The current nationwide wireless providers have failed to innovate and in the process have failed to keep pace with consumer and technological demands."

Tests have shown LightSquared's proposed LTE network, which would operate in a spectrum band now devoted to satellite services, would run into interference with most GPS products in the upper part of its band and with some high-precision units in the lower part of its band.

LightSquared in Reston, Virginia is also alleged to have received preferential treatment from the administration of President Barack Obama, because Philip Falcone, whose Harbinger Capital Partners owns the carrier, has contributed to Democrats. The company has denied the allegations.

Last week, Congressman Michael Turner, chairman of the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Strategic Forces, was joined by five additional members of his Subcommittee in calling on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee to investigate the Federal Communications Commission's approval process of LightSquared's application.

By a mere waiver of its own long established rules, FCC approved earlier this year an expansive proposal by LightSquared to build out a national broadband network even after the Deputy Secretary of Defense warned the FCC chairman of interference to national security interests, Turner said in a statement.

Despite the fact that the interference is caused by others' inappropriate use of LightSquared's licensed spectrum, the company has been proactive in working toward a solution to the GPS issue, Ahuja said in the open letter. It is making a US$150 million private investment in the solution for GPS.

Ahuja said that LightSquared has moved its spectrum farther away from the core GPS frequencies and at the request of the FCC, set up, funded, and ran a large and comprehensive testing program.

With 99.5 percent of all commercial GPS interference accounted for and solved, LightSquared has now tackled solving the remaining 0.5 percent of GPS interference occurring on precision devices that also inappropriately violate the company's licensed spectrum, Ahuja said.

The company has partnered with established GPS manufacturers to develop technology that eliminates interference issues for high-precision GPS devices, including those in the agriculture, surveying, construction, and defense industries. Pre-production designs are already in testing, and once completed, the technology can be implemented "simply, quickly, and inexpensively" into GPS devices, Ahuja said.

LightSquared said Wednesday that it has an affordable solution to interference between its 4G network and GPS systems and will have working units available for tests planned by the U.S. government in the coming months. A company executive however estimated that the cost of the gear to prevent interference would likely range between $50 and $300 per device, and the company is in talks with the U.S. government about covering the cost of upgrading or replacing all federally-owned devices.

The January, 2011 conditional waiver by the FCC's International Bureau granted to LightSquared would allow the dramatic expansion of terrestrial use of the mobile satellite spectrum (MSS) immediately adjacent to the frequency band used by GPS receivers, said The Coalition to Save Our GPS, an industry group that opposes LightSquared's plan.

If LightSquared is allowed to proceed with its plans, low-power satellite-based GPS signals would receive massive interference from land-based high-power transmissions from LightSquared's planned network of 40,000 stations, it said in a study earlier this year.

Ahuja said that LightSquared's commitment to infuse $14 billion of private investment, without any government funding, will bring 75,000 jobs over the next five years.

John Ribeiro covers outsourcing and general technology breaking news from India for The IDG News Service. Follow John on Twitter at @Johnribeiro. John's e-mail address is john_ribeiro@idg.com


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