FCC hangs up on 4G broadband biz LightSquared
Let the legal shenanigans begin
The US regulator has issued a statement saying it plans to suspend the waiver under which LightSquared was planning to build its national 4G network, putting the kibosh on the whole plan.
The statement is in response to a letter from the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) which recommended the waiver be suspended – saying that it remained unconvinced that LightSquared could ever coexist happily with GPS systems. LightSquared robustly refutes that conclusion, and had pinned its hopes on the FCC coming to a more sympathetic decision, but it has not turned out that way.
LightSquared has always contended that it is up to GPS device manufacturers to avoid interference from neighbouring users such as themselves. It has already (temporarily) abandoned one of the bands it owns, and has demonstrated cheap filters which it says the GPS industry could use, but the GPS crowd contends that they're too big to be allowed to fail, and that neighbouring frequencies should be restricted indefinitely to protect their users.
Both sides have indulged in a deluge of FUD (Fear, Uncertainty and Disinformation), not to mention political lobbying and the parading of celebrity supporters. Early test results demonstrating unacceptable interference were widely leaked, and are still being quoted by the GPS industry despite being discredited by LightSquared as inaccurate and misleading (the industry now refers to "press reports" of interference, thus covering themselves).
LightSquared, meanwhile, denied the problem existed, and then said it only existed in a tiny proportion of users. The company then offered to run its proposed LTE network at lower power, and only use one of the bands it owns (which is further from the GPS band) but always intended to ramp up both the power and fill the upper band when mitigation technologies were available.
LightSquared's brilliant plan was to use radio frequencies formerly reserved for satellite phones to build a ground-based network. The satellite phone business has repeatedly shown itself financially impossible, so the bands were considered almost worthless until LightSquared managed to get the FCC to change the rules. Satellite operators are allowed to run ground-based transmitters, to fill in gaps caused by shadows and push the signal into buildings, but LightSquared got permission to drop the satellite capability from the handsets entirely.
It was an audacious plan, and they would have gotten away with it if it weren't for those meddling GPS users in the band next door, who reckon 40,000 new transmitters would muck up their location tech.
The plan itself is perfectly valid, and Dish Networks will likely go on to build such a network (the bands Dish owns are suitably distant from GPS, but it can use the same waiver), but that's not going to help those who invested in Harbinger Capital (the fund behind LightSquared) and it would be almost un-American for those investors to give up without a fight. ®
Re: Sanity Prevails (for a change)
You can't make changes to the way the current GPS system without changing the constellation of satellites and all the millions of receivers.
I'm not sure what you'd hope to gain with bidirectional GPS (an ACK/NACK response?) but there is no way to put a suitable transmitter in all GPS receiving devices. Everything would end up looking like--and having the cost and battery life--of a sat phone.
LightSquared just figured they could push the cost of adapting the GPS infrastructure to their presence onto everyone else. It's the conservative/Wall Street/City mentality: privatize profits and socialize costs.
Just Plain Stupid
As far as I am concerned, the investors who backed LightSquared got everything that they deserved. There is no way in hell I would consider investing in a company that would buy the spectrum next door to GPS and try to change the rules attached to that spectrum. Going up against GPS in a fight, GPS will win every time.
The GPS industry really IS too big to fail, GPS has become such essential equipment that it cannot accept interference under any circumstance, the last thing anyone wants is planes to loose position lock or old ladies turning into oncoming traffic all because someone wanted to make a phone call.
The FCC should buy back the spectrum either side of the GPS bands and keep them as an indefinite white space.
Re: Just Plain Stupid
"The FCC should buy back the spectrum either side of the GPS bands and keep them as an indefinite white space."
Or simply classify is as being for space to earth use so that the signal strengths on the earth are low enough to not cause any problems for things like GPS.
Which oddly enough is what they have been classed as all along.