WASHINGTON, Jan. 18, 2012 – The battle between the GPS industry and LightSquared, a proposed 4G-LTE network backed by ground towers and satellites that may conflict with GPS signals, continued today as LightSquared executives publicly dismissed the most recent round of interference tests. 

The Global Positioning System (GPS) enables users on the ground to determine location by connecting to distant satellites using radio signals. The system is a staple in the agricultural industry for precision farming through field mapping, soil sampling, tractor guidance, crop scouting, yield mapping, etc. 

LightSquared said today that the process used to test GPS devices by Air Force Space Command on behalf of the Space-Based Positioning, Navigation, and Timing Executive Committee (PNT EXCOM) “was rigged by manufacturers of GPS receivers and government end users to produce bogus results.”

PNT EXCOM advises U.S. government agencies on GPS matters. It concluded last week that the LightSquared network could “cause harmful interference to many GPS receivers” as well as the Ground Proximity Warning System (GPWS). 

“We’ve been authorized to build this network since 2005,” said LightSquared’s Executive Vice President of Regulatory Affairs and Public Policy, Jeff Carlisle. “What the GPS community has decided to do is to push for a redo. They should’ve raised these issues about their receivers years ago, and they didn’t.”

The “Coalition to Save Our GPS” represents various industries that rely on the GPS system, including aviation, engineering, construction and agriculture. Members of the coalition include agricultural leaders like AGCO, Agricultural Retailers Association (ARA), Ag Leader Technology and Deere & Co.

“We have to protect the GPS signal’s viability for our farmers and growers,” said AGCO Director of Product Management for Global Electronics and Global Engines, Matt Rushing. “And as industry officials, technical experts and partners advise, there is interference.”

Rushing recognized that technical experts close to the issue may be able to argue either way, but that the lack of consensus makes it vital for AGCO to support an existing, reliable GPS system. 

“If they can figure out a way for both systems to exist with no interference issues, I believe it would be to the benefit of all industries,” he said. “But until it is clearly proven that LightSquared does not interfere with the GPS signal, we can’t support it.” 

In response to PNT’s conclusion, LightSquared called on the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) to re-evaluate the initial round of testing. Additionally, the company called on the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and the NTIA to conduct the second round of tests on high-precision devices at an independent laboratory. 

In a call with reporters, Carlisle and LightSquared’s Vice President for Spectrum Development, Geoff Stearn, outlined the company’s objections to the latest round of tests.  They include:

1.   “The GPS manufacturers cherry-picked the devices in secret without any independent oversight authority in place or input from LightSquared. The GPS manufacturers and the government end users put non-disclosure agreements in place for the PNT EXCOM’s tests, preventing any input by an independent authority or from LightSquared before the tests began.”

2.    “The testing protocol deliberately focused on obsolete and niche market devices that were least able to withstand potential interference.”

3.    “The testing standard does not reflect reality. To guarantee favorable results, the PNT EXCOM selected an extremely conservative definition of failure – one dB of interference. Independent experts agree that a one dB threshold can only be detected in laboratory settings and has no impact on GPS positional accuracy or user experience. Also, the government chose a power level 32 times greater than the level at which LightSquared will operate.”

During today’s media call, the LightSquared executives said FCC has yet to respond to the request for a second round of testing. 


For more news, go to www.agri-pulse.com