Lightsquared Calls GPS Test “Rigged”

LightSquared the satellite phone company that hopes to offer wholesale terrestrial LTE service, blasted the recent GPS testingon Wednesday. Lightsquared called the results from a federal GPS advisory board “rigged”, and asked federal agencies to look at the company objectively and proceed with high-precision GPS interference testing.

The PNT Executive Committee letter (pdf), sent to the NTIA Administrator, asked that the high precision testing be put on hold, because “there appears to be no practical solutions or mitigations that would permit the LightSquared broadband service, as proposed, to operate in the next few months or years without significantly interfering with GPS”.

After a list of the test devices was released to LightSquared, the company says it found that the only mass market device that reportedly failed the government’s tests — which were run by the National Space-Based Positioning, Navigation and Timing Executive Committee (PNT EXCOM) — actually “performed flawlessly during Technical Working Group” testing.

In a call with reporters, Jeff Carlisle, LightSquared’s Executive Vice President, Regulatory Affairs and Public Policy; and Geoff Stearn, LightSquared’s Vice President for Spectrum Development; outlined their position on how GPS industry insiders and government end users manipulated the latest round of tests to generate “biased” results. Also on the call was Edmond Thomas, former chief engineer at the FCC who explained how fair and accurate testing should be conducted.

Lightsquared expressed three main objections to the GPS study:

  • Testing was shrouded in secrecy, with no transparency. The GPS manufacturers “cherry-picked” the devices in secret without any independent oversight authority in place or input from LightSquared. The GPS manufacturers and the government end users put non-disclosure agreements in place for the PNT EXCOM’s tests, preventing any input by an independent authority or from LightSquared before the tests began.
  • The testing protocol deliberately focused on obsolete and niche market devices that were least able to withstand potential interference.
  • The testing standard does not reflect reality. To guarantee favorable results, the PNT EXCOM selected an extremely conservative definition of failure – one dB of interference. Independent experts agree that a one dB threshold can only be detected in laboratory settings and has no impact on GPS positional accuracy or user experience.

On a conference call Wednesday with reporters, Carlisle said he is confident LightSquared can take other steps to make sure the company’s investment is protected.

“This spectrum has been licensed to us since 1989,” he said. “And we’ve had authority to build a terrestrial network since 2005. That’s not spin. That is black-and-white law. And if we cannot move forward because of the GPS industry is blocking us, we will enforce our legal rights.”

LightSquared has run into resistance from GPS advocates because they are adjoining the GPS band at 1.6 GHz. GPS advocates such as SaveOurGPS, made up mostly of GPS manufacturers, have been among the most hostle towards the Lightsquared terrestrial network.

The House Committee on Small Business conducted a hearing entitled “LightSquared: The Impact to Small Business GPS Users” with a variety of opinions.

Satphone consultant Tim Farrar is not moved by Lightsquared’s allegations about how the testing was not “fair and accurate” because it reflected the NTIA’s own mandates for how the testing should be conducted.


The FCC’s Order and Authorization, required that LightSquared create a working group with the GPS community “to address interference concerns regarding GPS and, further, that this working group process must be completed to the Commission’s satisfaction before LightSquared commences offering commercial service.”

LightSquared cannot commence commercial operations of its terrestrial network until the FCC, “after consultation with NTIA, concludes that harmful interference concerns have been resolved and sends a letter to LightSquared stating that the process is complete.”

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Posted by Sam Churchill on .

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