back to article LightSquared hits FCC right where it hurts

LightSquared has issued a formal response to the threatened suspension of its licence, accusing the FCC of political bias and riding roughshod over precedent and Constitutional rights. The damning response runs to more than 400 pages (PDF, comprehensible but very long), but mostly reiterates the arguments that LightSquared won …


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  1. Ru

    As anticipated

    This is just going to run and run, and in the end no-one will benefit but the lawyers.

    It was bloody stupid of the FCC to say they'd let Lightsquared use their spectrum in this way, and it was only ever going to end in tears. Shame that both sides of this particular dispute can't both lose.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: As anticipated

      Lightsquared sounds like self-contradictory restaurant reviewer when he said , "The food was bad and the portions were too small."

    2. bazza Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: As anticipated


      "and in the end no-one will benefit but the lawyers."

      Absolutely agree. And the losers are ultimately going to be the tax payers and shareholders.

      I think that LightSquared do have a point about spectrum management. A regulator can't possibly manage a country's spectrum if it is powerless to resist the effects of non-compliant devices flooding the market. In effect LightSquared are saying "Your the bloody regulator, now get on and bloody well regulate". It's risky - technically LightSquared are in the clear, but there's a whole load of bolitics (thank you Roger Mellie) and commercial pressure involved too.

      The UK equivalent, Ofcom, is in a similar predicament. Having ignored the importation of non-compliant powerline Ethernet devices for too long they're now in a position of having to shut the stable door after the horse has bolted.

      We all need good spectrum regulation, but we only get that if the regulators are quick off the mark when problems arise. I don't think we've seen that in either of these cases.

      1. JohnMurray

        Re: As anticipated

        What we need are regulators who are not going to ride into the sunset of jobs with the people they have been "regulating".

        It would be rather nice to have fair, proportional and unbiased regulation.

        Unfortunately, these are the times of "wanna job after ya leave o£com mate"...

  2. tkioz

    The FCC let them spend 1.1bn and are NOW tell them they can't do it?

    Maybe I'm reading too much into this, but I'm thinking it's very likely that the existing carriers and telcos are behind this, the very last thing they want is competition, especially from someone who can provide a cheaper and better service...

    1. Tom 35 Silver badge

      I would not be surprised

      if this was due to someone at the FCC not staying bought, or they didn't buy someone high enough in the chain.

    2. David Kelly 2

      Fortunately the FCC has no say in whether or not fools spend $1.1B pretending they will be permitted to do something which is currently denied.

  3. Roadkill

    This is going to be another SCO v IBM, isn't it?

    Fun fact: SCO Group is *still* pursuing IBM after nearly a decade, despite losing every case, going bankrupt, etc. Check the timeline on Groklaw.

    LightSquared has taken the first steps down this evil path by laying off 45% of its workforce in advance of this lawsuit. Soon they will become like SCO Group: once these companies make the decision to lay off all their technical staff, they become shambling, brainless zombies that will never produce any valuable product again.

    However, these ghouls instinctively feel an insatiable urge to feed, and thus their dead hands file court action after court action against the living.

  4. cd

    I wonder if the FCC personnel that approved it are now working for LS. This might be a perfect case for illustrating the issues that result from the revolving door between US Gov and Industry.

  5. just_me

    Lightsquared = Dillusional

    Lightsquared License was for satellite - low power.. now they want to change their license to allow higher powered ground systems - with the associated problems filtering out the signal. They complain that it is against their constitutional right?? what right? To change the license by litigation?

    GPS systems allow a wider band than needed for multiple reasons.. primary one is Doppler. If you are moving, the GPS frequency is shifted proportionately to your velocity (Doppler shift). Some GPS receivers are mounted on devices traveling more than 600mph/960kph. The other reason is the tighter you make a band pass, the more you attenuate the signal you are interested. There is no 'perfect' bandpass filter - particularly at the frequencies involved.

    1. DrKipling

      Re: Lightsquared = Dillusional [sic]

      No delusion here : The public notice issued by the FCC is rotten

      First a technical point :

      Your doppler shift argument lacks perspective - The satellites in the GPS constellation are going at 14,000 km/hour - this makes for a 5khz doppler shift even for a stationary observer, in an L-band signal (1-2GHz) and considering the 59Mhz of bandwidth that LightSquared have licensed, this isn't a performance requirement that is hard to address.

      There should be no safety critical civilian applications in which GPS is relied upon, and there aren't any civilian applications exceeding 1200 km/hour in any case - the DoD have applications which might want to exceed the speed of sound, but they have decided that LightSquared's plans address all their concerns about out-of-band emissions and don't cause meaningful degradation of service in their receivers.

      LightSquared are complaining that they aren't being allowed to deploy a network in their own spectrum despite prior authorization because of lobbying pressure from equipment manufacturers who have made equipment with poor filtering. The government proposes to take away the ATC authorizations granted to Lightsquared without compensation : so in answer to your question 'What constitututional right?' : that would specifically be their 5th Amendment constitutional rights.

      1. lowwall

        Re: Lightsquared = Dillusional [sic]

        "The government proposes to take away the ATC authorizations granted to Lightsquared without compensation" should read "The government proposes to take away the ATC authorizations granted to Lightsquared despite the letter of the law according to a provisional waiver, a waiver whose requirements Lightsquared ultimately proved unable to meet."

        "LightSquared are complaining that they aren't being allowed to deploy a network in their own spectrum". They can and are deploying it. From orbit. Which is where the spectrum they purchased is allowed to be deployed.

        They got the spectrum cheap precisely because it was only allowed for satphone (and satdata) services. A 2003 FCC decision expanded this for all satphone providers to allow very limited usage of ATCs (ground stations) to help fill in the satphone service in areas like cities where a direct sky view is impeded. But Lightsquared wanted to go further and leave off the satellite service entirely for most users so they filed for a waiver of this requirement. This was entirely inconsistent with its original spectrum grant, which was duly noted in the FCC's grant of the waiver, see page 14 "Failure to Satisfy the Rule" of

        The FCC decided to grant the waiver despite their own findings based on the hope that the eventual service would be of net benefit to the public. But the waiver grant included a clear requirement that Lightsquared be able to demonstrate it did not overload GPS receivers - see pages 21-22 of the FCC waiver grant, starting with "GPS AND OTHER INTERFERENCE CONCERNS" [caps in original] and ending with "LightSquared Subsidiary LLC’s authorization for Ancillary Terrestrial Component operations (Call Sign: S2358) is modified to include authority to provide terrestrial service as described in its application, and subject to the conditions specified in paragraphs 36 and 41-43 of this Order." [paragraph 41-43 are the GPS bits].

        1. Variable2

          Re: Lightsquared = Dillusional [sic]

          Your assertions are flawed; you leave out a key piece which is at the core of LightSquared's argument, which is that LightSquared was granted authorization to deploy ATC base stations. You need to view the FCC report and orders AFTER 2003, such as the one in 2005 which you have chosen to overlook, which puts NO LIMITS on ATC deployment, EXCEPT a limit on radiated signal power levels, which were WELL ABOVE LightSquared's planned deployment.

          1. lowwall

            Re: Lightsquared = Dillusional [sic]

            Note that the waiver in the link I posted - - was adopted January 26, 2011. Prior to this, in practice ATC authorizations were for fill-in only stations, because by the terms of the spectrum grant and even after the 2003 modification, all handsets had to have satphone capabilities. Since most people don't want to lug around satphones, especially since their satellites only cover North America where terrestrial service is widely available, it's probably not a money maker. But that's business, they made a gamble that the government would allow them to offer services that were not part of their original remit. They lost the gamble.

            Lightsquared can and does still provide the mobile satellite services for which it does have rights.

            They never had a right to provide service to non-satellite-capable phones. They have no constitutional taking case based on the government decision not to give them additional rights. All they have left is a PR push to try to get the politicians to bail them out by giving them some unencumbered spectrum.

          2. accord1999

            Re: Lightsquared = Dillusional [sic]

            In the 2005 ruling, the FCC also stated:

            "We clarify that “integrated service” as used in this proceeding and required by 47 C.F.R. §25.149(b)(4) forbids MSS/ATC operators from offering ATC-only subscriptions. We reiterate our intention not to allow ATC to become a stand-alone system. The purpose of ATC is to enhance MSS coverage, enabling MSS operators to extend service into areas that they were previously unable to serve, such as the interiors of buildings and high-traffic density urban areas. We will not permit MSS/ATC operators to offer ATC-only subscriptions, because ATC systems would then be terrestrial mobile systems separate from their MSS systems. We therefore clarify that “integrated service” as used in this proceeding and required by 47 C.F.R. § 25.147(b)(4) forbids MSS/ATC operators from offering ATC only subscriptions."

            Which basically forbid what LS is trying to do. And while the FCC did not provide a hard cap on stations (believing that the economics of satellite communications would naturally limit it to a small number), ATC deployment was always subject to Federal regulations CFR 25.255

            "If harmful interference is caused to other services by ancillary MSS ATC

            operations, either from ATC base stations or mobile terminals, the MSS

            ATC operator must resolve any such interference. If the MSS ATC operator

            claims to have resolved the interference and other operators claim that

            interference has not been resolved, then the parties to the dispute may

            petition the Commission for a resolution of their claims.""

  6. Variable2

    Well done! This is an outstanding account of the issues as reported by the author and published by The Register. I have to say, if this is an example, hats off to The Register and it's peers; it's too bad the American press has not, with few exceptions, been able to capture the story so clearly. Here it is in a nutshell.....the US GPS industry early on endorsed LightSquared's plan, never believing a lowly Satellite operator would ever gain the financial wherewithal to actually deploy said plans. When it appeared likely they would, the GPS industry leveraged the US press to their strong advantage, spread fear and panic, stirred up a political storm in an election year, resulting in the FCC taking the high road, forcing LightSquared to fight for it's legal rights, not to mention it's survival. Perhaps the Washington Post, Business Week, and other US "highly respected" publications can follow The Register's lead!

    1. accord1999

      No, a part of the GPS community worked with LightSquared's predecessor in developing ground transmitters for its Ancillary Terrestrial Component (ATC) to be used for fill-in as part of primary satellite service in the past. By FCC rulings, ATC was forbidden from being used to create a stand-alone terrestrial network.

      However, LightSquared managed to find contacts within the FCC and plotted together to sneak through their terrestrial network under the radar, attempting to make an end-run against existing rules and procedures. However, the key waiver to allow terrestrial only service was noted and resulted in the protest of the whole of the GPS community, as well as virtually the rest of the Federal Government due to the virtual certainty of interference.

      Despite this, the FCC still generously allowed LS the opportunity to still go ahead to re-purpose their satellite spectrum for terrestrial use, which would have resulted in an multi-billion dollar windfall for LS, if they could show no interference to GPS.

    2. lowwall

      There is an outstanding account of the issues, both technical and legal, surrounding Lightsquared in the Register. But it's not in this article, it's in the comments on this and the earlier articles.

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