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Trimble Responds to Misleading LightSquared Letter

Trimble Vice President and General Counsel Jim Kirkland submitted a letter to the Strategic Forces Subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee, responding to a letter from LightSquared Executive Vice President Jeffrey Carlisle. The letter from Carlisle repeated many of the inaccurate claims LightSquared has made in the past. Some current positions from the Coalition to Save Our GPS are below.

- General Shelton is correct that LightSquared has proposed a new and fundamentally different use of the MSS band adjacent to GPS. LightSquared is the newcomer and approval of its plans would represent a major policy change, as well as a major change in spectrum use. As recently as March 2010, the FCC reiterated that MSS licensees were only authorized to use terrestrial operations to “fill-in” the footprint of a satellite service. Because LightSquared is proposing fundamentally different operations in the MSS band than those previously authorized, it is responsible for bearing all costs of eliminating interference, including costs of replacing or retrofitting any existing equipment that will suffer interference after its mitigation proposals have been implemented.

- LightSquared’s selective discussion of the technical terms of its ATC authorization is beside the point. LightSquared’s suggestion that GPS manufacturers, starting in 2005, were required to start designing their equipment to accommodate eventual nationwide terrestrial operations in the MSS band has the order of priority precisely backwards. In fact, MSS licensees have always operated under various direct and indirect obligations to limit terrestrial operations and to protect GPS. But it doesn’t matter, because even the January 2011 International Bureau waiver decision makes clear that LightSquared will not be permitted to operate until interference concerns are resolved.

- GPS receivers do not “encroach” on LightSquared’s spectrum and are designed appropriately. LightSquared’s contention that GPS receivers should have been designed differently over the last several years to avoid interference depends entirely on its inaccurate claim that the FCC authorized nationwide terrestrial service and terrestrial-only services in the MSS band in 2005. Revisionist history aside, GPS receivers were designed in expectation that the “quiet neighborhood” in which MSS service was originally authorized would be maintained.

- LightSquared is directly responsible for interference to high-precision GPS receivers, but still refuses to accept its responsibility to pay the costs of replacing these receivers if and when new technology becomes available. LightSquared’s claims about GPS receivers conveniently ignore that many high precision receivers are susceptible to interference because they were designed to receive services that LightSquared itself provides and in accordance with contractual requirements imposed by the company. LightSquared is clearly responsible for this problem, but has refused to accept its responsibility to bear the full costs to replace this equipment. It must be required to bear all such costs.

- LightSquared’s revisionist history is clearly calculated either to hide or justify a multi-billion dollar spectrum windfall for its owners. The mobile satellite spectrum that Harbinger Capital acquired when it bought out LightSquared’s predecessor in March 2010 was originally awarded for free. LightSquared’s own consultants estimate that its value is currently $2 billion if limited to satellite use, but $12 billion if it can be used for unrestricted terrestrial mobile broadband services. So, if LightSquared is allowed to move forward, it will pocket an unjustified windfall at the expense of U.S. taxpayers.

- More tests are necessary. Both the NTIA and FCC have said that more testing of GPS devices in the presence of signals from LightSquared’s lower 10 MHz of spectrum is required.

- The cost impact of interference to GPS is substantial. GPS is essential to economic activity between $68 billion and $122 billion per year, and “an estimated $3 trillion worth of commerce relies on GPS for tracking, timing and navigation” worldwide.

- LightSquared will have an adverse effect on our nation’s military forces. GPS is vital to national security and is relied upon by our service men and women for a wide array of capabilities. Even if an effective filter could be developed and even if it were itself an inexpensive item, DOD would still have to conduct exhaustive tests.

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