Speaking at an event sponsored by the National Space-Based PNT Advisory Board, Trimble vice-president and general counsel and founding member of the “Coalition to Save Our GPS” James Kirkland sent a strong message to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

“The test data discussed today [June 9] makes clear that there is substantial interference to GPS if LightSquared turns on high-powered terrestrial facilities in the spectrum next door to GPS,” Kirkland said.  “The data confirm what the industry told the FCC before it granted the waiver, and also confirms that there is no viable technical fix.  It’s time for the FCC to stop squandering resources trying to find a solution to an unfixable problem.  Instead, it should focus its efforts on finding spectrum that LightSquared can operate in—where LightSquared won’t interfere with GPS.

“When it comes to broadband and GPS, it’s not an either/or situation—the United States can, and should have both.  LightSquared says it has other spectrum and it should use it,” Kirkland said.

At issue is an unusual waiver granted to LightSquared in January by the FCC’s International Bureau allowing the dramatic expansion of terrestrial use of the mobile satellite spectrum (MSS) immediately neighboring that of the GPS—utilizing extremely high-powered ground-based transmissions that tests have shown will cause interference to hundreds of millions of GPS receivers across the United States.  

Agricultural Retailers Association recently joined representatives from a wide variety of industries and companies as part of the Coalition to Save Our GPS to resolve a serious threat to the reliability and viability of the Global Positioning System (GPS). LightSquared plans to transmit ground-based radio signals that would be one billion or more times more powerful as received on earth than GPS's low-powered satellite-based signals, potentially causing severe interference impacting millions of GPS receivers including those used by ARA members in precision agriculture and by the federal agencies, state and local governments, first responders, airlines, and everyday consumers in their cars and on handheld devices.

At the event, Kirkland and government representatives discussed testing conducted to measure interference to GPS receivers used in aviation and other critical government applications.  In at least one test, LightSquared failed to deliver test equipment that matches its proposed operations, thus causing optimistic results—and even those optimistic results showed interference. 

“It’s clearly a good thing that LightSquared is trying to do,” Kirkland said. “No one in the GPS industry opposes its goals of increasing wireless data capacity and competition, but the available data has shown overwhelming interference, and LightSquared should not be allowed to launch in the spectrum adjacent to GPS.”

A joint industry report is due to the FCC on June 15th, when the FCC will begin a public comment period before making its final decision. 

The “Coalition to Save Our GPS” is working to resolve the threat to the Global Positioning System. The FCC granted a highly unusual conditional waiver for a proposal to build 40,000 ground stations that could cause widespread interference with GPS signals—endangering a national utility which millions of Americans rely on every day. The conditional waiver was granted to a company called LightSquared.

Additional coalition information is available at www.SaveOurGPS.org.