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GPS Will Not Be Harmed By LightSquared

August 10, 2011

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) said Tuesday that Philip Falcone’s satellite broadband start-up LightSquared would not be allowed to operate if it harmed GPS services.

The FCC is evaluating LightSquared after testing found its original plan for a high-speed wireless network could interfere with GPS services.

According to estimates, about 500 million GPS receivers are in government or commercial use in the U.S.

“We’re not going to do anything that creates problems for GPS safety and service as we explore technical solutions that will both protect GPS and allow a new service to launch,” FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said during a press conference after the agency’s monthly open meeting.

LightSquared unveiled a new plan in June for developing its network that uses a different block of wireless airwaves that is farther away from the GPS band.

The start-up said it hopes this fixes the interference issues and will satisfy the FCC.

However, an FCC official said during a briefing for the press that creating a “guard band” between LightSquared’s airwaves and those used for GPS left a large swath of spectrum underutilized.

The official said they would like to find a solution that is better for long-term spectrum policy and allows efficient use of the airwaves.

The FCC is working with the Obama administration to make 500 megahertz of spectrum available during the next 10 years to help catch up with the rapid growth of the smartphone industry.

LightSquared intends to invest $14 billion over the next eight years to build a wireless network, and the start-up hopes to sell wholesale wireless services to companies like Best Buy Co.

The company would serve about 260 million people with its cellular network and provide satellite coverage over the entire U.S.

The FCC will take until August 15 on LightSquared’s proposal to lessen interference by initially limiting operations to part of its allocated airwaves.

Julius Knapp, chief of the agency’s technology office, said in a briefing for reporters that the FCC has yet to set a deadline for its decision and is still considering whether more testing may be needed.

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