FCC Revokes Waiver From Lightsquared

The battle between the developing wireless internet provider Lightsquared and manufacturers and key end users of global positioning systems (GPS) will enter a new chapter following the Federal Communications Commission’s decision to revoke Lightsquared’s conditional waiver.

In a statement released by FCC late yesterday, it explained that while its motive for moving rapidly to provide the waiver to Lightsquared was to remove regulatory barriers that preclued the use of spectrum for mobile devices while creating growth and promoting competition, they also clearly stated from the outset that harmful interference to GPS would not be permitted. This is why the Conditional Waiver Order issued by the Commission’s International Bureau prohibited LightSquared from beginning commercial operations unless harmful interference issues were resolved.

(For historical perspective, see the linked blog post from July 2011 regarding the Lightsquared – GPS situation)

Tests conducted last year by NTIA, the federal agency that coordinates spectrum uses foro the military and other government agencies, weighed heavily on the decision. NTIA … has now concluded that there is no practical way to mitigate potential interference at this time. Consequently, the Commission will not lift the prohibition on LightSquared. The International Bureau of the Commission is proposing to (1) vacate the Conditional Waiver Order, and (2) suspend indefinitely LightSquared’s Ancillary Terrestrial Component authority.

The statement also said that a public notice seeking comment on NTIA’s conclusions and on these proposals will be released soon.

Ken Golden, director of global public relations at Deere Co., shared the following thoughts on the statement:

  • Deere agrees with the decisions of the FCC and NTIA. The decisions remove the immediate threat to GPS and to the productivity and efficiency of millions of GPS users.
  • Deere believes the PNT test results are valid, that the tests were properly conducted, and that the conclusions are based on sound engineering.
  • Deere supports increased broadband service and will work with the NTIA and PNT in efforts to structure solutions that permit it without interfering with GPS, a critical national resource.

Jim Kirkland, vice president and general counsel of Trimble and a founding member of the Coalition to Save Our GPS, provided the following statement:

“Today’s release of the NTIA’s conclusions and the FAA and government interference findings represent a pivotal moment in the year-long testing of harmful interference to GPS that followed the FCC International Bureau’s January 2011 order granting LightSquared a conditional waiver. The Bureau’s conditional waiver made two things absolutely clear: first, that LightSquared would not be permitted to move forward unless it could demonstrate that its proposed operations would not interfere with GPS; and second, that the NTIA, as the representative of critical government spectrum users, would play a central role in deciding whether this condition has been satisfied.

“After a year of extensive testing, NTIA has now conclusively stated that LightSquared’s operations will interfere with GPS and that there is no viable mitigation path for the foreseeable future. The findings of widespread interference include serious threats to safety-of-life systems, as the FAA report details.

“The FCC has acted appropriately by declaring that its non-interference condition has not been satisfied and that LightSquared will not be permitted to move forward with its proposal to build a nationwide high-powered terrestrial network in the mobile satellite band.

“The Coalition stands ready to work with the NTIA and the FCC to address the important policy issues relating to longer term use of satellite spectrum and reduction of potential interference to maximize the efficient use of all satellite spectrum.”

John Pointon of subscription satellite GPS provider OmniSTAR hopes the decision calms some nerves about the future of global positioning systems.

“Despite all the money and lobbying, the simple truth is that (Lightsquared’s) planned transmissions would have had a measurable – not to mention safety of life – impact on GPS throughout the continental US, and that was something that would not only have impacted major industries, such as ag, but also compromise vital defence interests. Hopefully this will put an end to some of the uncertainty and nervousness in the marketplace.”

More coverage and statements will be released as they are available.

 

 

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