back to article FCC hangs up on 4G broadband biz LightSquared

The US regulator has issued a statement saying it plans to suspend the waiver under which LightSquared was planning to build its national 4G network, putting the kibosh on the whole plan. The statement is in response to a letter from the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) which recommended the …

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Just Plain Stupid

As far as I am concerned, the investors who backed LightSquared got everything that they deserved. There is no way in hell I would consider investing in a company that would buy the spectrum next door to GPS and try to change the rules attached to that spectrum. Going up against GPS in a fight, GPS will win every time.

The GPS industry really IS too big to fail, GPS has become such essential equipment that it cannot accept interference under any circumstance, the last thing anyone wants is planes to loose position lock or old ladies turning into oncoming traffic all because someone wanted to make a phone call.

The FCC should buy back the spectrum either side of the GPS bands and keep them as an indefinite white space.

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M7S
Bronze badge

Re: Just Plain Stupid

That might be a little unfair on any non-technically minded investors who relied on the waiver issued by the FCC and the business model that this waiver helped support. I'm sure that there will be plenty of comments that they should have taken better advice etc but you can find people to counter any argument and eventually you have to take a punt or everything just stagnates.

I do not pretend, for example, to understand everyting about the investments my pension fund manager has made and I would guess that in terms of the exact products of the companies, neither does the manager, s/he has to make a judgement based on the information available.

If one feels that we should limit investment simply to those who understand to an advanced level the technology or other relevant factors underlying a company/product then I point you to the Sinclair C5

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Re: Just Plain Stupid

Dont they want to use this as a ground based system? I dont see how it will affect planes up in the air. As it is now, it is used to communicate from ground to satellite, which seems more likely to cause an issue.

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Re: Re: Just Plain Stupid

A) LightSquared's plan would continuously affect most current GPS (phones, sat-nav for cars) in most built up areas where they want to provide broadband coverage, where as

B) The typical sat-communication system has limited power on the ground for uplink (so limited area of interference), and short term use at £x per minute call costs, and

C) The downlink (satellite to ground) has very low power by time it gets to Earth, so no issue competing with the similarly powered GPS signal.

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Re: Re: Just Plain Stupid

@M7S

au contraire exactly that kind of technical nous can be expected from investors in the scheme. It wasn't open to the general public coming from a hedge fund. Hello? Aren't they supposed to specialise in arbitrage in the financial markets? Can you point out exactly how they are providing liquidity to the markets here?

The whole deal stank from the start and the hedge fund only got involved because it knew the rules were being gamed. Greed over foresight, as per bloody usual.

As for those investors: didn't the name "Harbinger" ring any bells?

Kudos to Mr Ray for the Scooby Doo allusion.

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Re: Re: Just Plain Stupid

There is a difference between understanding a technology in depth and having a basic grasp of what is going on, but that is totally irrelevant. I think that personally, I'd do some due diligence before I invested my own or other people's money into something like this.

The real issue is, you risk your money and you take your chances. This could just as easily have been a flood in Thailand as a waiver revocation. Sometimes things just happen.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Just Plain Stupid

"The FCC should buy back the spectrum either side of the GPS bands and keep them as an indefinite white space."

Or simply classify is as being for space to earth use so that the signal strengths on the earth are low enough to not cause any problems for things like GPS.

Which oddly enough is what they have been classed as all along.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Re: Just Plain Stupid

It's hard to tell radio signals to stop at a certain altitude.

It's also hard to make a GPS antenna that will pick up things just above the horizon but block out far more powerful signals just below the horizon. Especially when that antenna has to work when the plane it's mounted on to is banking.

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Buy back?

Sorry, the FCC should not be spending our tax money to "buy back" that spectrum. LightSquared bought it, it has a defined use. If LightSquared does not want to use it for satellite phone comms, then let THEM resell it (probably at a loss) to someone who does. Their bad investment should not be bailed out by the taxpayers - they can resell it privately.

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@M7S

"That might be a little unfair on any non-technically minded investors who relied on the waiver issued by the FCC and the business model that this waiver helped support."

How so? It was a conditional waiver. It also stated that LightSquared was required to resolve the interference issue to the satisfaction of the commission before the network was commercially available. It was in plain English and publicly available for all to read. So if someone made a poor investment decision, then sorry, but life itself is not fair. It is not like the waiver was written in Greek or legal jargon.

Here is part of the waiver:

"41. We agree on the need to address the potential interference concerns regarding GPS as

LightSquared moves forward with plans to deploy and commence commercial operations on its

network.144 Further, we believe that establishing a working group that brings LightSquared and the GPS community together to address these interference issues expeditiously would serve the public interest.

We envision a working group in which cooperative and candid discussions can ensue, and where information, including proprietary information, can be shared among the participants with appropriate measures in place to protect the confidentiality of that information. Commission staff will work with NTIA, LightSquared, and the GPS community, including appropriate Federal agencies, to establish a working group to fully study the potential for overload interference to GPS devices and to identify any measures necessary to prevent harmful interference to GPS. As a condition of granting this waiver, the process described below addressing the interference concerns regarding GPS must be completed to the Commission’s satisfaction before LightSquared commences offering commercial service pursuant to this waiver on its L-band MSS frequencies."

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@SoulReaper

It is because the GPS signal is weak and it will overload (overpower) the GPS signal with interference. Having more powerful transmitters on a satellite causes other issues, one of which is how to power them. Larger solar panels are one option but also drive the cost up, make the satellite bigger and heavier to get into space, which can cause other issues.

The tests also showed that it impacted far more than just the GPS in planes.

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Re: Buy back?

It wouldn't actually be spending Taxpayers money, since LightSquared would have paid the FCC (in effect the taxpayer) for the spectrum, and the FCC buying it back would in effect amount to a Refund of the purchase price. Thus the taxpayer doesn't loose any money.

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Sanity Prevails (for a change)

The bandplan was layed out specifically to support GPS and ground/earth telephone service To change that plan now is silly. No someone will have to figure out how to use LightSquared's allocation as it was originally intended. Or leave it empty.

How about expanding GPS into LightSquared's allocation? Perhaps bidirectional GPS? Perhaps use the bandwidth to broadcast traffic and weather and news and music to earth?

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Re: Sanity Prevails (for a change)

You can't make changes to the way the current GPS system without changing the constellation of satellites and all the millions of receivers.

I'm not sure what you'd hope to gain with bidirectional GPS (an ACK/NACK response?) but there is no way to put a suitable transmitter in all GPS receiving devices. Everything would end up looking like--and having the cost and battery life--of a sat phone.

LightSquared just figured they could push the cost of adapting the GPS infrastructure to their presence onto everyone else. It's the conservative/Wall Street/City mentality: privatize profits and socialize costs.

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Re: Sanity Prevails (for a change)

There are some cars that can already receive (in the US) their weather and traffic via one of the subchannels on the satellite radio services.

Also - this was an attempt by LightSquared to whitewash the spectrum and turn it from a satellite service into a cellular-type service. If the FCC didn't find a problem with it, then certainly the incumbent operators (who paid a pretty sum to get their spectrum) would have cried foul in the courts.

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Stop

@MD Rackham

"LightSquared just figured they could push the cost of adapting the GPS infrastructure to their presence onto everyone else. It's the conservative/Wall Street/City mentality: privatize profits and socialize costs."

Conservative?Funny, that actually seems to boil down to the liberal philosophy of "we reap the rewards and everyone else can pay the bills".

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Ru
Holmes

Let's not celebrate just yet

I rather suspect that this'll Jarndyce&Jarndyce its merry way through the US legal system for years to come. There's a lot of greed, money and stupidity on either side. At least everyone will get to carry on using GPS whilst this farce sorts itself out.

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Joke

Jarndyce&Jarndyce

Is that like the law firm of Dewey, Fleecem, & Howe?

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Re: Let's not celebrate just yet

And it will just be more money wasted by LightSquared. The waiver was a conditional waiver. So that is one strike against LightSquared succeeding in court. Where it all ends, that conditional waiver stated that the interference issue had to be resolved to the satisfaction of the commission.

So, what is LightSquared going to base their lawsuit on? I would expect the jury to come to a verdict real quick and it would be too bad so sad LightSquared.

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Anonymous Coward

"Perhaps bidirectional GPS?"

Yeah so you know where the satellite is... doh.

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Bidirectional GPS

No, no, no. Bidirectional GPS can tell you where you've been, and where you'll be in the future. Very useful for planning ahead.

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Pint

What about Sprint

This brings to mind the question of, how is Sprint going to build a 4GLTE network now? And of course, if they can't manage to start that soon, they won't be getting the Galaxy Nexus or any other 4GLTE phone, any time soon.

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Re: What about Sprint

It may not matter as LTE is not LTE. There are two flavors, TDD and FDD. Most of the world (carriers) have gone the FDD route. Sprint and China are going the TDD route.

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Hmm.

FUD (Fear, Uncertainty and Disinformation)

What FUD stands for depends upon who you ask. I've always heard it to mean "Fouled Up Disinformation". Replace "Fouled" with the word of your choice (just like FUBAR).

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I always thought...

...it meant "Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt", which are all emotions.

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Thumb Up

For once, an FCC ruling with which I can agree...

GPS is way too important to allow the implementation of services in nearby frequency bands that could degrade its performance.

Although I'm not a big fan of the ways in which GPS technology could be abused to track my every move (such as through my mobile phone), it does have some very important safety, defense, and economic uses. It is well-known that GPS was opened to civilian use as a result of the Korean Air 007 incident, as a result of the (then) Soviet Union shooting down a wayward passenger 747 which was off-course due to a failed ground-based VOR beacon and mis-configured autopilot:

-- Wikipedia: Korean Air Lines Flight 007:

-- -- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Korean_Air_Lines_Flight_007

Had GPS technology been available to civilian institutions from the get-go, the Korean Air flight would probably have never strayed into Soviet airspace (presuming the autopilot was upgraded to be GPS-capable), and the 269 people who died that night may still be alive.

I generally don't like it when government bureaucrats unnecessarily interfere with free markets, but I have to admit, I agree with them on this one...

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Anonymous Coward

Re: For once, an FCC ruling with which I can agree...

"I generally don't like it when government bureaucrats unnecessarily interfere with free markets, but"

That pesky BUT!

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Bronze badge

Re: Re: For once, an FCC ruling with which I can agree...

In point of fact, this is not a case of bureaucrats interfering unnecessarily. This is a case of bureaucrats interfering exactly as they're supposed to, in order to prevent calamity and mayhem.

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Megaphone

What's the Diff?

I don't see how LightSquared's plans for the freqs differs much from the original Sat Phone application. The Sat Phone providers would be broadcasting from land based antennas to their phones in areas where sat reception is less optimal and to penetrate buildings. LightSquared isn't going to use stronger land based transmitters than the Sat Phone people were, just more towers to presumably more phones.

The answer is to have the GPS receiver folks build better discrimination into the devices.

Would you expect a 1920's radio to tune as well as a modern device? RCA was 'too big to fail' and they made their fortune on getting people to upgrade to better receivers, not crying to the Government to protect their old, shoddy gear.

The Megaphone so you can hear me now.

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Re: What's the Diff?

Big differences.

First off, LTE is the Next Big Thing, so you're going to need PLENTY of coverage to get all those customers. That means there will be LOTS of powerful transmission towers, all of a terrestrial nature. Imagine yourself trying to listen to your cell phone in the middle of a death metal concert. (as a note, GPS signals from space are pretty damn faint once they're down on the ground) That's analogous to the level of interference you'd be facing.

Sat phones don't have those problems because they're (1) temporary, (2) sporadic, and (3) ALSO satellite-based, in contrast to the permanent, constant, and terrestrial system planned by LightSquared.

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Happy

Re: What's the Diff?

funny you use that analogy.... receivers from the 50's and 60's with their analogue dials, tend to pick up signals far better than their modern digital counterparts. Vacuum tubes also seem to reproduce the sound MUCH better than digital circuits that approximate the wave.

also Lightsquared is different from other LTE and ground operators due to the adjacent proximity (similar signals) to the GPS signal, the further away on the spectrum, the less similar they are, and less likely to cause interference. It why your microwave doesn't usually cause your FM radio to get signal distortion, but can really screw up a 2.4 ghz wireless phone.

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Megaphone

Re: What's the Diff?

"Replace the GPS gear...". Spoken like someone who doesn't know that such gear is often built into OTHER stuff that costs many thousands of dollars to replace - like shipmounted chartplotters, and aircraft navigation systems, where it is not a simple thing like changing your mobile handset. For many boaters, for example, their chartplotter may be one of the most expensive pieces of equipment on their boat, and will often have their GPS, radar display and collision avoidance gear all in one unit. You can't simply change out the GPS - you have to replace the entire thing, for many thousands of dollars, and often have to replace the associated gear, like radomes and antennas. Similarly with many aircraft systems. While I am sure Raymarine and Garmin LOVE your idea, those of us that actually use GPS don't want to have to replace these things more than once every 5-10 years. If that. And the 7 year old chartplotter on my sailboat still works VERY well thank you, hardly "old, shoddy gear".

Lastly, the filters that have been shown to work to prevent interference are physically LARGE - not a small thing. So for those of you with small, thin mobiles - you may have to get used to a new form factor. Think Moto-bricks.

Or, we could simply require that our LTE networks be built using appropriate, and suitable, spectrum that was not originally designed to be a guard band for GPS (by being restricted to infrequent, low-power signals at the earth level). No one is saying that LTE is a bad thing - just that those who wish to provide it should have to pay for appropriate frequencies, rather than trying to acquire inappropriate frequencies on the cheap and then finagling their use through legal means.

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Silver badge

Re: Re: What's the Diff?

"Or, we could simply require that our LTE networks be built using appropriate, and suitable, spectrum that was not originally designed to be a guard band for GPS (by being restricted to infrequent, low-power signals at the earth level). No one is saying that LTE is a bad thing - just that those who wish to provide it should have to pay for appropriate frequencies, rather than trying to acquire inappropriate frequencies on the cheap and then finagling their use through legal means."

Having said that, I can see why LightSquared tried such a play. There is no market for spectrum. There is simply NO more spectrum available in the frequencies that would matter. Practically all of the usable spectrum is being held by cell providers who all have plans for it, so they're not selling. IOW, LightSquared's only hope was against a closed market was to disrupt it. Just didn't work out, in this case.

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Re: Re: What's the Diff?

Wait a minute....

IF (as I am not sure but go with me on this one), IF the originally foreseen use under the sat regime DID provision base stations as augmentation whenever the sat signal wouldn't work then that mode is purely mobile cell network equivalent.

So, IF that was already foreseen why is it such a big deal if the base station count multiplies by an order of 1000?

What I'm trying to say is that the original intended deployment may be culpable here as well.

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Stop

Why can nobody spell 'lose'?

Not 'loose', FFS.

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