LightSquared Watch: The Latest Developments

As is always the case when big money is involved, LightSquared has ramped up its efforts to force its broadband initiative down the throats of the precise community. Taking out full-page advertisements in newspapers across the country, it is taking its case directly to the American people. And because the public only sees GPS as something for cars, the precise community’s reliance on GPS and the enormous benefit to the U.S. economy is not being considered.

LightSquared continues to beat the "poaching" drum by saying that GPS receivers have been designed to take advantage of signals that stray out of the defined GPS spectrum band. My research has revealed that all signals from satellites stray out of their assigned bands. Because the signals from space are weak, this helps the ground devices work. Again, because LightSquared is attempting to take spectrum that was established for space-based transmissions and turn it into terrestrial-based transmissions, the ground-based transmissions will be billions of times stronger than that from satellites.

The term poach implies something prohibited or illegal or stolen. To turn that charge around:
• At this point in time, it is not prohibited for GPS receivers to "listen" in another band. It is not prohibited for anyone to "listen" in that band. The FCC does not prohibit listening, only transmitting. To listen in to private transmissions or encrypted can fall under a completely different set of laws GPS receivers are only "listening" for transmissions from GPS satellites, freely available. GPS is doing nothing prohibited or illegal under current laws or FCC rules.
• At this point in time it is prohibited for anyone to transmit from tens of thousands of terrestrial transmitters at 1500W each in the MSS band in question. Until the waiver is turned into a full authorization, such transmissions are prohibited.
• GPS knew this was coming? This could be argued until the cows come home and it boils down to a pretty weak semantic argument at that. How about "the applicant knew the spectrum they acquired was reserved for satellite services when they acquired said spectrum?"

All talk of terrestrial service in the mobile satellite spectrum (MSS) until 2010 was about ancillary terrestrial components (ATC). No one filed for a primarily terrestrial component until late 2010. The GPS industry was blindsided by the application for massive terrestrial. This is all over a company that wants to turn straw (satellite spectrum it got on the cheap) into gold (full terrestrial). No other broadband initiative would go near that band. The 2004 ATC order is the only ammo LightSquared has. Bottom line for us: if it causes too much interference then it cannot go through.

In the Presidential Memorandum dated July 28, 2010, President Obama called for an additional 500MHz of spectrum for the broadband initiative. What LightSquared is currently after represents only 10MHz. Where will the other 490MHz of spectrum come from? The haste by LightSquared is for purely opportunistic reasons.

If they want to go terrestrial how about waiting until the constellation upgrades are ready? It is possible that the terrestrial transmissions in the lower part of the MSS band might be a non-issue when L5 is complete, L2C complete, and L1C is complete. That means high precision will very likely rely primarily on those three; and L1 will fade into the past and may only be used by some low precision and legacy systems. But it is going to be more than a decade before L5 is anywhere near completion. But, if there was truly a PNT policy in place, then the spectrum could be managed effectively for long term as the constellations come to maturity; not, as this rash plan does, for simple short term gains. Remember that the switch to digital TV was planned for over a decade.

Planning, management, long term viability… these should not be hollow words. Short term gain for a very few is all this is about; not rural broadband (because the plan per the waiver is to reach 260M people, and that leaves 52M out, guess where they live?). It is not do-or-die for broadband (only 2% of the goal) it is do-or-die for a hedge fund and do-or-die for GPS; it doesn’t matter what the GPS-was-warned/No-we-weren’t semantic battle is over. Blaming the GPS industry is not the point; we end users are the real potential victims.

Unanswered is who is going to pay for the upgrades should the LightSquared initiative be allowed to proceed. LightSquared has said it will pay for the required military gear upgrades, but the rest of the estimated $2 billion upgrade cost will fall on the shoulders of the precise user community. Javad Ashjaee has announced the costs for upgrading his gear, but why should we have to pay anything?

And also in the American tradition, LightSquared is now threatening legal action to allow its initiative to proceed. More HERE. And perhaps, again in the American tradition, precise users should file a class-action lawsuit of our own. I suspect $2 billion in "damages" would qualify.

And as evidenced by this Washington Times article, if it weren’t enough that our spectrum is being threatened, traditional television broadcasting is also under a threat by the rush to broadband.

For more information from all the players, please go HERE