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Coalition to Save Our GPS

Coalition to Save Our GPS



CONTACT: Prism Public Affairs

Dale Leibach: 202-207-3630 or [email protected]


July 1, 2011

LightSquared’s “Recommendation” Document: A Review

On June 30, 2011, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC)-mandated Technical Working Group filed a 1,000-plus page report analyzing interference from LightSquared’s proposed deployment plans in theMobile Satellite Service (MSS) band adjacent to the GlobalPositioning System (GPS).

The report was based on LightSquared’s February 2011, description of its planned three phases for deployment: Phase 0, Phase 1 and Phase 2. All three phases identified by LightSquared for study used aportion of the MSS band directly adjacent to GPS, 1545.2-1555.2 MHz(the “Upper MSS band”). The working group test results showedthat use of this portion of the MSS band caused overwhelminginterference to every category of the 500 million GPS receivers inuse in the United States, from those used by airplanes, policevehicles and ambulances to everyday consumer cell phones and personalnavigational devices.

Up to the point of the June 30 report filing, LightSquared had for months repeatedly said that its proposed operations would not interfere with GPS. Faced with the report’s overwhelming evidenceof massive interference – and no doubt in order to preempt thesehighly negative results -- LightSquared simultaneously released a 37page “Recommendation” document (RD) that it developed totallyoutside of the Technical Working Group established to collaborativelystudy the problem.

In that document, LightSquared proposed an entirely new deployment scenario, not included in the initial scope of the working group analysis, which would not use the Upper MSS band at all, and a seriesof mitigation measures – many of which were never disclosed ordiscussed during the four month working group study process.Further, the document tries to blame the “commercial GPS industry”for any interference caused by its operations, and also claims,without citation to the working group study or any other supportingdata, that its proposal will solve interference for 99 percent of GPSreceivers.

The utter failure of LightSquared’s initial deployment plans to pass interference tests raises fundamental questions about the representations LightSquared made to the FCC prior to its January2011 decision that convinced the FCC to grant the waiver and convenethe interference study process in the first place, and raisessignificant questions about the credibility of LightSquared’svarious claims and whether they hold up to scrutiny.

The current strong indication is that whatever LightSquared told the FCC prior to January 2011 was highly inaccurate, to a degree that verges on negligence. These questions logically follow from the failure ofthe original deployment plan: Was LightSquared transparent in itsdealings with the FCC? In other words, what did LightSquared know,and when did it know it?

  • In all of its documents and public statements, LightSquared claims a long history of familiarity with the technical rules of the MSS band and a wealth of technical expertise on interference issues.LightSquared is clearly the most knowledgeable about its own networktechnology, and also claims to be intimately familiar with priorproceedings relating to MSS interference and GPS. And it appears toclaim that it has been working on these plans for years. Yet, inFebruary 2011 it proposed only deployment scenarios which used theupper MSS bands, which overwhelming technical evidence shows willcause massive interference to every GPS receiver studied.

  • This raises a variety of questions: Did LightSquared not know that its proposed upper MSS band operations would cause interference? If it didn’t know, that places its technical competence in severe doubt.Did LightSquared know, or have very strong reason to believe,before January 2011 that massive interference would result? If so,why did it not disclose this to the FCC?

  • There certainly was ample available evidence that harmful interference would result. The US GPS Council knew, and presented testing results and analysis demonstrating this interference to the FCC in bothDecember 2010 and January 2011. So did major U.S. governmentdepartments and agencies, which communicated serious concerns to theFCC in a formal letter in January 2011. LightSquared’s reaction?It dismissed these findings out of hand.

Since LightSquared was completely wrong in formulating its initial deployment plans and claiming that they would not cause interference, why should the company’s reassuring technical claims about its“new” deployment plan be given credibility? LightSquared’s“recommendation” document makes a host of other inaccurate ormisleading statements, and a number of its major misstatements arediscussed below. The bottom line is that, just as LightSquared waswrong in 2010 and the first six months of 2011, it is wrong now.

Statement 1: The Recommendation Document mischaracterizes the GPS industry’s position, claiming that the industry is trying to force LightSquared to buy other spectrum or go out of business:

“[T]he commercial GPS device industry now argues that LightSquared should not be permitted to operate its L-band terrestrial network on its authorized frequencies but, rather, should have to find or buy newfrequencies. . . .This choice would doom an innovative Americanstart-up company that has devoted more than 10 years of effort andbillions of dollars in reliance on explicit regulations andauthorizations permitting it to proceed as planned with a vital newwireless network.” RD p. 3

LightSquared must begin to deploy its network immediately or it may not survive.” RD p. 24

The Facts: The Coalition to Save Our GPS has simply said that until it can be conclusively shown that there willbe no interference to critical GPS uses, LightSquared should not beallowed to deploy in the upper orlower MSS band. Unless and until that is demonstrated, LightSquaredalready has other spectrum and should use it. LightSquared’swebsite states that:

LightSquaredalready owns valuable high quality spectrum assets, including 59 MHz of nationwide ubiquitous spectrum in an advantageous frequency position. Viewableat:

The Upper and Lower MSS band together account for 20 MHz of spectrum. This leaves 39 MHz of “high quality spectrum assets,” to which LightSquared asserts it has access, available to be used for initialdeployment. Since the RD clearly indicates that only 20 MHz ofspectrum is needed for initial deployment, 1LightSquared already has ample spectrum to support deploymentwithout using any of the MSS Upper or Lower band. In any case, toallow for a clear understanding of the impact of the presentproceeding on its plans, LightSquared should provide a full anddetailed accounting of its spectrum holdings instead of paintingbaseless “doom and gloom” scenarios.

Statement 2: The Recommendation Document falsely implies that this is a fight between LightSquared and the “commercial GPS industry,” and that only the “commercial GPS industry” has raised interferenceobjections to LightSquared’s plans:

[T]he commercial GPS device industry wants the Commission to shut down an unprecedented effort to establish a nationwide wireless broadband network built with private funding.” RD p. 4

The Facts: The Coalition to Save Our GPS was founded initially by leading GPS manufacturers, but it has grown to include includes companies and trade associationscutting across virtually every sector of the US economy. Itsmembers include: the Aeronautical Repair Station Association (ARSA),AGCO, Agricultural Retailers Association (ARA), Air TransportAssociation (ATA), Aircraft Electronics Association (AEA), AircraftOwners and Pilots Association (AOPA), Air Line Pilots Association,International (ALPA), American Association of State Highway andTransportation Officials (AASHTO), American Petroleum Institute(API), American Car Rental Association (ACRA), American Congress onSurveying and Mapping (ACSM), American Council of EngineeringCompanies/Council of Professional Surveyors (ACEC/COPS), AmericanRental Association (ARA), Associated Equipment Distributors (AED),Associated General Contractors of America to the Coalition,Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI),Association of American Geographers (AAG), Association of AmericanRailroads (AAR), Association of Equipment Manufacturers (AEM), ATXGroup, Avidyne Corporation, BoatU.S. - The Boat Owners Association ofThe United States, California Land Surveyors Association, CaliforniaSpace Authority (CSA), Canadian Owners and Pilots Association (COPA),Case New Holland, Caterpillar, Deere & Company, Delta Air Lines,Edison Electric Institute (EEI), Equipped to Survive Foundation, Inc.(ETSFI), Esri, Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA), FarmEquipment Manufacturers Association (FEMA), FedEx, Fire Department ofNew York (FDNY), Garmin, General Aviation Manufacturers Association(GAMA), GROWMARK, Inc., Hemisphere GPS, Inside GNSS, InternationalAir Transport Association (IATA), Intelligent Transportation Societyof America (ITS America), Leica Geosystems, MACHINE CONTROL Online,Magellan GPS, Mid-Atlantic Aviation Coalition-New Jersey (MAAC-NJ),National Agricultural Aviation Association (NAAA), NationalAssociation of Manufacturers (NAM), National Business AviationAssociation (NBAA), National Cotton Council of America (NCCA),National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA),Networkfleet, New World Systems, North American Equipment DealersAssociation (NAEDA), OmniSTAR, Orienteering USA, Payment AssuranceTechnology Association (PATA), PeopleNet, Ltd,Regional Airline Association (RAA), Reinke Mfg. Co. Inc., TomTom,Topcon Positioning Systems, Trimble, UNAVCO, UPS, and the USA RiceFederation.

More importantly, LightSquared ignores the fact that the GPS constellation is a U.S. government-owned asset representing historical investment of over $35 billion of taxpayer money and annual investment of $1.7billion to maintain the constellation. The U.S. government,including practically every major federal department and agency, isthe biggest single user of GPS equipment and services, and hasinvested many more billions of dollars in GPS-based equipment andsystems, such as the NextGen aviation guidance system.

These government agencies lodged strong objections to LightSquared’s deployment plans in multiple letters to the FCC in January and March 2011. Recently, a study was prepared on behalf of the federalgovernment users which concluded that LightSquared’s initialdeployment plans (phases 0, 1 and 2) created unacceptableinterference to all classes of GPS receivers in use by the federalgovernment, and that use of Lower MSS band only by LightSquared hadnot been proven to solve these interference issues.

Statement 3: The Recommendation Document suggests that interference is the result of design decisions made by the “commercial GPS industry” that resulted in GPS receivers that wrongfully “listen” toLightSquared’s frequencies.

GPS devices, such as wideband precision measurement receivers, deliberately use LightSquared’s L-band frequencies. Their receivers employ wideband front-ends in order to increase precision and inorder to receive satellite augmentation signals throughout the1525-1559 MHz L-Band. By failing to build receivers resistant tolawful transmissions in an adjacent band, GPS manufacturers haveeffectively appropriated LightSquared’s L-band spectrum.” RD p.18

[I]t is inescapable that it is [the GPS manufacturers’] disregard for the Commission’s policies regarding the immunity of receivers to transmissions in nearby frequency bands that is the source of thetechnical problem.” RD p. 2

The Facts: Many high precision GPS are in fact intentionally designed to receive signals in the MSS band, but not because GPS manufacturersintentionally “fail[ed] to build receivers resistant to lawfultransmissions” in this band. Rather, many high precision receiversare designed this way to take advantage of services that LightSquareditself provides, as does Inmarsat – so as LightSquared knows well,but elects not to explain, LightSquareditself earns revenue by selling satellite capacity for the very sameGPS augmentation services that high precision receivers are designedto receive. LightSquared also fails to disclose that its own contracts withsatellite customers reserve the right to transmit signals anywhere inthe entire MSS band upon notice, so GPS receivers which useLightSquared MSS services hadto be designed to receive signals in the entire MSS band. Inother words, the ”design decision” to make high precision GPSreceivers that were vulnerable to interference from high powerterrestrial interference in the MSS band wasimposed by LightSquared itself.

The fact is that LightSquared’s original plans, as well as its new “recommended” plan, create massive interference to customers from which LightSquared has been happily collecting revenue for years.And LightSquared adds insult to injury by blaming GPS manufacturersfor designing high precision GPS receivers in a way that allowedtheir customers to pay money to LightSquared.

The proven potential for interference to high precision GPS receivers that use MSS based augmentation services, interference which LightSquared acknowledges, also raises fundamental questions aboutLightSquared’s business practices: If it knew since 2001 that itwas planning a service that was incompatible with GPS augmentationservices, what did it do to disclose this fact to customers? Has itdisclosed this fact to customers recently based on its current plans?Based on all reports from the affected users, the answers are“nothing” and “no.”

The suggestion that design decisions by commercial GPS manufacturers created the interference problem through “bad” design decisions is also belied by the fact that many GPS receivers that LightSquaredwill interfere with are designed according to the demandingspecifications of the Department of Defense or in accordance with theexacting standards applicable to national and international aviationnavigation imposed by the Federal Aviation Administration, the InternationalCivil Aviation Organization, International Telecommunication Union andother industry standards bodies. Further, integrated L-band MSS-GPSequipment has for many years been built to International MaritimeOrganization standards for Global Maritime Distress and SafetySystems (GMDSS). Such equipment was shown to suffer devastatinginterference during government tests at White Sands Missile Range.


Either LightSquared failed to do the most minimal due diligence on GPS receiver standards, or it has conveniently ignored them. Either way, LightSquared’s current opinions on what is “good” GPS designare entirely self-serving and baseless.

Statement 4: The Recommendation Document states that the “commercial GPS industry” knew of LightSquared’s plans and acquiesced in them.

Since 2003, the commercial GPS device industry has not only known about plans to develop a terrestrial wireless network in L-band spectrum, it actually approved those plans.” RD, pgs. 6-7

The Facts: This claim merely recycles a simplistic view, endlessly repeated in LightSquared sound bites, about the history of the FCC’s “ancillaryterrestrial component” rules, and also glosses over theinconvenient fact that LightSquared required a waiver of the FCC’srules, which was granted in January 2011, to proceed with its plans.Simple repetition does not make the claim any more accurate.

But the claim is lacking even in basic logic. If LightSquared knew beginning in 2001 that it was going to build the nationwide network it is now proposing, and was so intimately involved in FCCproceedings defining interference standards for MSS and GPS, how isit that between 2001 and the present, the “commercial GPS industry”built and sold 500million GPS receivers thatdid not meet purported FCC standards, and that were incompatible withits carefully conceived plans, without LightSquared ever noticingthis “fact”? Hundreds of millions of these same receivers hadbeen sold to the public by the time Harbinger bought LightSquared in2010. Did Harbinger know when it invested further “billions” inits satellite and network that there were so many non-compliant GPSreceivers in the hands of customers and businesses, and elect to moveforward anyway, without addressing this proactively with the FCC?And if it didn’t know, why not? As a sophisticated New York hedgefund with billions of dollars of investors capital at its command, itshould be expected to do basic due diligence. Or was the massivedetrimental effect on GPS users from LightSquared’s initial planssimply “someone else’s problem” that could be safely ignored?

In short, even if LightSquared’s account of history were true, if anyone “slept on their rights” it was LightSquared, and not the “commercial GPS industry.” The GPS industry has done what realinnovators do – build great products that tens of millions ofpeople and businesses want to buy and put to an incredible variety ofcutting edge uses. LightSquared, on the other hand, has not yetprovided broadband services to a single customer.

But the more basic truth is that LightSquared’s version of history is simply groundless. The Coalition to save Our GPS has already debunked this revisionist history in detail. Viewableat:

One final point deserves emphasis. There is simply no escaping the fact that it is and was the FCC’s responsibility toidentify and proactively address GPS interference issues to protectthe substantial investment the federal government has in GPS. TheFCC expressly committed to do this in 2005, in a passage that bearsquotation at length:

While we agree with the GPS Industry Council, NTIA, and other government agencies that it is essential to ensure that GPS does not suffer harmful interference, it is also important to ensure thatnew technologies are not unnecessarily constrained. In this regard,we recognize that the President's new national policy for space-basedpositioning, navigation, and timing (PNT) directs the Secretary ofCommerce to protect the radio frequency spectrum used by GPS and itsaugmentations through appropriate domestic and international spectrummanagement regulatory practices… Furthermore, the President's PNTpolicy calls for the establishment of an inter-agency ExecutiveCommittee, on which the Chairman of the FCC will be invited toparticipate as a liaison, and a National Space-Based PNT CoordinationOffice. It is our intention to establish discussions with otheragencies, through the PNT Executive Committee and Coordination Officeas appropriate, to better understand what protection levels for GPSare warranted. The results of those discussions may lead tofuture rulemaking proposals in order to ensure that all FCCservices provide adequate protection to GPS, and produce a morecomplete record upon which to establish final GPS protection limitsfor MSS ATC licensees.2

Ironically, this is this same PNT that has objected strenuously to LightSquared’s plans after reviewing the results of government interference tests. It does not appear that the FCC has taken steps to implement thiscommitment, nor has LightSquared supported the FCC by submittingcomplete and accurate disclosures of interference potential from itsproposed operations at any point during this process. If, forwhatever reason, the FCC has failed to fulfill this responsibility todate, LightSquared should not be allowed to make the “commercialGPS industry” the scapegoat.

Statement 5: LightSquared claims that by limiting its operations to the Lower MSS band, it will eliminate interference to more than 99 percent of GPS receivers.

[T]ransmissions in the 10 MHz band at the bottom of LightSquared downlink frequencies 3 — the band farthestaway from the GPS frequencies — will not adversely affect theperformance of over 99 percent of GPS receivers. Exceptions aremostly limited to those precision measurement devices used largely inagriculture, mining and construction. . . RD p. 2

The Facts: LightSquared has cited absolutely no data from the working group study or elsewhere to support this claim and the 99 percent figure is foundnowhere in the Technical Working Group’s final report. Theavailable data show that this claim is blatantly false. As best onecan tell from LightSquared’s public statements, the claim appearsto be based on the assertion that Lower band operations will notaffect mass market GPS devices such as personal navigation devices orcell phones. But this is not at all what the working group data show.

The technical working group report of the General Navigation sub-group, which studied mass market personal navigation devices, stated that “labtesting revealed that many devices suffered from harmful interferencefrom the lower 10 MHz channel; specifically, 20 out of 29 devicesexperienced harmful interference.” TWG Final Report at pgs. 16,177. Similarly, data from the cellular sub-group report clearlyshows that 6 out of the 39, or 15 percent, of cellphone GPS receiverstested failed the defined interference tests. TWG Final ReportFigure 3.2.2.

Simply counting a percentage of affected devices also ignores the true costs and benefits of interference from LightSquared’s new plan. Whileprecision receivers account for a relatively small percentage of GPSreceivers, they account for enormous economic benefits. A recentlyreleased economic study demonstrated that high precision receiversused in construction, agriculture and survey and mapping accountedfor $10 billion in private investment in GPS equipment over the lastfive years, and produced $30 billion in economic benefits per year.It’s highly irresponsible for LightSquared to so lightly dismisstens of billions of dollars of potential damage to the economy.

Statement 6: LightSquared claims that the use of inexpensive filters would prevent GPS receivers from “listening” to LightSquared’sfrequencies and would solve the interference problem.

Despite the commercial GPS device industry’s best efforts to rewrite the record and obfuscate the nature of the problem, the simple fact remains that GPS receiversdo not adequately reject base station transmissions in the adjacentband.’” RD p. 17

[B]y failing to deploy receivers with sufficient filters, the GPS industry essentially uses LightSquared’s L-Band spectrum even though it is beyond thespectrum allocated to GPS.” RD p.19

The Facts: Aside from integrated MSS-GPS equipment designed to use L-band satellite communications, the idea that GPS receivers are “using”LightSquared’s spectrum is nothing more than a sound bite, with nobasis in any established or generally accepted concepts of spectrumusage or radio frequency engineering. To be able to receive faintsatellite signals, GPS receivers must be designed to be highlysensitive. GPS receivers incorporate filters that rejecttransmissions in adjacent bands that are hundreds of millions timesmore powerful than the signals that are transmitted within the bandthey are designed to receive.

LightSquared, however, is proposing to transmit signals in the band adjacent to GPS that are billionsof times more powerful than GPS satellite signals. In fact, thehighest recorded power levels at the Las Vegas tests conducted in thestudy were a staggering 800billion times thepower of GPS signals. There has never been, nor will there ever be, afilter that can block out signals in an immediately adjacentfrequency band that are so much more powerful, nor has LightSquaredput forward any credible, independent expert opinion or otherevidence that this is possible.

The FCC mandated that the technical working group consider possible ways to “mitigate” interference. As the technical working group report confirms – itssound bites about filters notwithstanding – the only deviceLightSquared produced for testing was an antenna with filters soextreme that they would filter out more than 95 percent of the GPSsignals as well, with an extremely severe penalty to receiverperformance. Other than that, LightSquared did not produce a singlefilter for testing, only PowerPoint presentations and conceptualvendor proposals. Even these theoretical filters did not address theinsurmountable technical problem presented by extremely high poweredsignals immediately adjacent to GPS.

If LightSquared’s theoretical filters ever made it off of the drawing board, they would force GPS receivers to retreat into only a tiny portion of the legitimate GPSband and would render useless millions of GPS devices and billions ofdollars of investment by government, industry and consumers.

And even real filters are not a solution for the 500 million receivers in use in the United States. The entire population of GPS users would require a minimum of 15years to prepare for such a change. For example, factory GPS systemsinstalled in automobiles are typically not replaced for the 10-15years life of the vehicle and the same can be said for aircraft,trucks, ambulances, agricultural and construction machinery to namebut a few. The idea of effecting such a transition in a matter ofmonths is absurd.

While the nation needs more wireless broadband services, there are many places in the radio spectrum already identified or allocated to 4G cellular uses, whereinterference to adjacent space based communications such as GPS wouldnot occur. The satellite component of LightSquared’s network –serving rural and public safety users outside of cellular coverage –is fully compatible with the adjacent uses and is already in use. Toallow a new unproven use for fewer users to diminish along-established, highly productive spectrum use for the majority isnot in the public interest and must not be allowed.


# # #

1 Under LightSquared’s new proposal, it will initially deploy using the 10 MHz in the lower MSS band. The need for 20 MHz is derivedfrom the need in wireless networks to have equal amounts of paireduplink and downlink spectrum. The 10 MHz lower band presents 10MHzof downlink spectrum.


2 Flexibility for Delivery of Communications by Mobile Satellite Service Providers in the 2 GHz

Band, the L-Band, and the 1.6/2.4 GHz Bands, Memorandum Opinion and Order and Second Order on

Reconsideration, 20 FCC Rcd 4616, ¶ 70 (2005).



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