LightSquared vs. GPS gets ugly

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Photo: European Space Agency

Those following the LightSquared / GPS debacle (all six of you) know it’s been a fiercely contested issue, and rightfully so. But the smear campaigns and misinformation have to stop.

In case you’re not one of the six, here are the basics: The GPS industry claims that LightSquared’s proposed 4G network will interfere with its transmissions. The FCC commissioned a study and LightSquared believes it has a technical solution.

As it stands now, LightSquared is not allowed to build anything until the FCC approves it.

But misinformation has been spread to the contrary. Senator Grassley was even prompted to send a letter to the FCC, asking why the FCC provided LightSquared with a waiver to use spectrum licensed to GPS companies. The FCC sent a response, which correctly said that it had done no such thing, and it won’t approve LightSquared’s network until it believes a solution is in place.

The GPS industry also overreached by issuing a questionable report about how LightSquared would affect its signal — a report that has been batted down by many independent scientists

On Thursday, LightSquared opted to resort to similar dirty tactics. The company commissioned a report from the questionable Brattle Group that found the GPS industry was receiving $18 billion in implicit subsidies from the U.S. government. The underlying argument was essentially that the government is in bed with the GPS industry.

What the report does highlight — and should have focused on — is the fact that the GPS industry has made little effort to upgrade its systems, and its receivers are not operating according to specification. They are, in fact, spilling over into spectrum that was licensed to LightSquared.

The GPS industry and its advocates have acted shamefully in this proceeding. But it’s also a shame that LightSquared felt it needed to go on a smear campaign to compete. 

In the meantime, a rare new entrant to the wireless market that could compete with a dwindling number of providers is being held up. It’s time to focus on the problem at hand and fix it without attempting to get the public on board by obfuscating the facts. -David

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