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LightSquared now plans to launch commercial LTE services early next year, Martin Harriman, executive vice president of LightSquared, told Light Reading. The company had previously said that it would launch initial commercial markets by the end of this year.

The startup plans to conduct field trials in the third and fourth quarter this year in Baltimore, Las Vegas and Phoenix, according to Harriman, with the first base stations being installed in Las Vegas “as we speak.”

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has issued a Flight Advisory warning pilots that GPS service in that area of Nevada could be “unreliable or unavailable” from May 16-27. During that time, LightSquared will be testing whether a signal from one of its proposed 40,000 towers upsets satellite navigation.

The FCC’s conditional waiver (pdf), granted to LightSquared on January 26 of this year, allows it to broadcast a new terrestrial broadband service. Some 40,000 terrestrial antennas will eventually be installed by LightSquared — in the portion of L Band (1525 MHz–1559 MHz) immediately adjacent to the 1559–1610 MHz band used by GPS. The new broadband service is planned to operate in urban areas, while the space-based service will operate outside these areas.

LightSquared will be using part of the L-band downlink frequencies (1525-1559MHz), while GPS (and GLONASS) operate within the 1559-1610MHz band, explains satellite consultant Tim Farrar. LightSquared’s base stations will be fitted with filters which cut off the signal abruptly at the top of the L-band, so LightSquared’s signals don’t leak into the GPS band.

This change amounts to a de facto reallocation of Lightsquared’s spectrum use from space to terrestrial wireless, says the GPS community, and will cause interference with older GPS devices.

According to just about everyone in the GPS industry, the issue won’t go away. A Technical Working Group was formed from members of the GPS community, both industry and governmental. The group will determine whether Lightsquared’s terrestrial transmitters could affect the accuracy, coverage and continuous availability of GPS, reports Light Reading.

The first report from the 34-member group was submitted on March 1 (pdf), the second is due April 15, and the final report is due June 15.

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