LightSquared and GPS Interference

By | December 14, 2011

Imagine you are at the controls of a small single engine airplane. You are flying in the clouds, relying on your instruments to keep you out of trouble. All you see out your windscreen is gray. You are setting up for an instrument (ILS) approach to a small airport. You are 1000 feet above the ground. To your right is a 2500 foot hill and to your left is a 1500 foot hill. Your glide-slope has you right on the mark. The displays on your instrument panel should have you popping out of the clouds at 500 feet above the ground, one and a half miles from the end of the runway, lined up on final approach.

Enter LightSquared. Imagine that while still in the clouds, lining up for final approach, your ILS receiver, which relies on GPS data from an on-board GPS receiver loses it’s signal or begins to report inaccurate information. Now where is that runway…and where are those hills?

Bloomberg reported on Friday, that leaked test results show LightSquared’s equipment, which is designed to provide terrestrial based wireless broadband mobile service, interferes with 75% of existing GPS equipment.

LightSquared has responded by claiming the leaked test results were incomplete in that the power levels used in the test are higher than those the company proposes to use. They stated further that using their proposed power levels, the system would only interfere with 10% of existing GPS equipment. Indignant, LightSquared has also called for an investigation into who leaked the results.

The complete test results are due to be released on Wednesday.

LightSquared came under fire earlier in the year, when, according to a story in the Daily Beast, Air Force General William Shelton told the House strategic forces subcommittee in closed session, “that the White House asked the general to alter his testimony to add two points: that the general supported the White House policy to add more broadband for commercial use; and that the Pentagon would try to resolve the questions around LightSquared with testing in just 90 days. Shelton chafed at the intervention, which seemed to soften the Pentagon’s position and might be viewed as helping the company as it tries to get the project launched, officials said.”

Majority investor in LightSquared, Philip Falcone has consistently given money to both democrats and republicans.

A series of e-mails and documents obtained by The Center for Public Integrity in September, document contacts from company officials and White House staffers concerning the company’s project, and requesting a meeting at an Obama fundraiser.

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