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PNT Says "No Practical Solutions" Exist for LightSquared Network

In a letter sent to the NTIA on Jan. 13, the nine federal departments and agencies comprising the National Space-Based Positioning, Navigation and Timing (PNT) Executive Committee (EXCOM) concluded that both the original and modified plans for LightSquared’s proposed broadband network would cause harmful interference to many GPS receivers.

In a letter sent to NTIA Administrator Lawrence E. Strickling on Jan. 13, the nine federal departments and agencies comprising the National Space-Based Positioning, Navigation and Timing (PNT) Executive Committee (EXCOM) concluded that both the original and modified plans for LightSquared’s proposed broadband network would cause harmful interference to many GPS receivers. The letter also noted that the LightSquared proposals are not compatible with several GPS-dependent aircraft safety-of-flight systems. “Based upon this testing and analysis, there appear to be no practical solutions or mitigations that would permit the LightSquared broadband service, as proposed, to operate in the next few months or years without significantly interfering with GPS,” the letter stated. “As a result, no additional testing is warranted at this time.”

The Coalition to Save Our GPS welcomed the statement. “Today’s conclusion represents the culmination of a year of unprecedented technical effort to evaluate LightSquared’s proposal to repurpose satellite spectrum adjacent to GPS for a nationwide wireless network providing terrestrial-only services,” said Dale Leibach, a coalition spokesman. “The January 2011 FCC decision to grant LightSquared a waiver imposed an absolute condition that LightSquared would not be permitted to move forward unless it could demonstrate that its proposed operations would not interfere with GPS, and LightSquared fully accepted this condition. Since then, every set of independent technical studies has confirmed that LightSquared’s proposed operations would create widespread interference to critical GPS uses, including the test results which were the subject of today’s government conclusion.

“LightSquared has been afforded every possible opportunity to make its technical case, and has failed to demonstrate that it can avoid interference to many critical GPS-based activities. At this point, there is no evidence that any further modifications to LightSquared’s proposal would yield a different conclusion. Because of this, the PNT Executive Committee’s conclusion that it is time to end technical studies and conclude that the proposal is not viable is supported by overwhelming technical evidence.”

LightSquared disagreed and sent its own letter to Strickling, calling the PNT EXCOM conclusions “dubious” and “based on a highly flawed testing and analytical process.” The company said that tests conducted by an outside independent laboratory demonstrate that LightSquared’s proposed mitigation solution “works flawlessly” for high-precision devices and that it believes these test results are more than sufficient for the federal government to conclude that the LightSquared mitigation proposal will allow for the coexistence of GPS and the LightSquared network. “LightSquared believes the FAA has an obligation to resume participation in the good faith efforts that were productive at the beginning of this process in order to ensure that the LightSquared/GPS compatibility issues can be resolved to the satisfaction of the parties involved,” the letter stated.

In a separate statement, LightSquared urged the FCC and NTIA to recommit to a fair and transparent process. The company claimed that PNT EXCOM and the PNT Advisory Board put personal and private sector interests ahead of their public responsibilities and said that federal agencies have demonstrated “inappropriate collusion with the private sector.” The Coalition to Save Our GPS swiftly responded to the allegations. “In apparent recognition that it cannot satisfy the FCC International Bureau’s condition of non-interference that it accepted in January 2011, LightSquared has pursued a concerted disinformation campaign to attack and impugn specific companies and individuals who have been part of the process of reviewing its proposals,” Leibach said. “These shrill, irresponsible attacks are reprehensible, and are obvious acts of desperation. The technical evidence speaks for itself, and no individual, company or government body can legitimately be blamed for the clear defects of LightSquared’s ill-conceived proposal or the failure of that proposal to pass an extensive, fact-based review process.”

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