back to article Sprint grants LightSquared last-minute stay of execution

Sprint Nextel has given wireless broadband biz LightSquared until the end of January to get FCC approval for its network, putting a hard deadline on the viability of its revolutionary plan. LightSquared needs the regulator's thumbs-up to build its pan-US LTE network in bands formerly reserved for satellite comms, but it also …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "and someone is going to have to spend millions of dollars fitting new filters."

    Doesn't sound "largely ideological" to me. Sounds like it should be "you're jamming signals from US military satellites, off to pounding-in-the-ass prison with you".

    1. Lance 3

      I'm sure the FCC has received quite a few calls from Congress members as well as those in the high ranks of the military. There is an out for the FCC, in the waiver they did put stipulations into it and one of which that did say that if the GPS interference issue is not resolved to the commissions satisfaction, LightSquared could not build their network out. It is possible that the FCC is using the ignore approach out and let the glitch fix itself. However, if the FCC does grant permission to LS, I'm sure the NSA, DOD, etc. will be talking to LS and what will happen when their network interferes with the military and what the cost will be for LS to buy their way out of it. If LS is talking about burning through funds now, just wait until the military gets involved. The military will need to put an RFP out for the contractors to bid on. One will be selected to do the research. Once that is done, another RFP will issued to do the actual work that was outlined in the previous RFP. Needless to say, millions won't have enough zeros to cover the costs.

  2. BigFire


    This is just a nice legal pretax that Sprint uses to get out of the deal. 30 days won't be enough time for FCC to even begin to re-look at this turkey that's been grilled many ways. As Bones McCoy always said in Star Trek: "It's dead Jim".

    1. Lance 3

      WHAT??????? If that were the case, then why did Sprint give them another month? it was eluded to in the article, but the original deal was set to expire on 12/31/2011.

      This was terms of the deal:

      "The 15-year partnership agreement, announced in July, had been scheduled to expire on Dec. 31 if LightSquared did not receive approval from the U.S. Federal Communications Commission to provide a nationwide LTE (Long Term Evolution) mobile data service. Concerns over interference with GPS have put that approval in jeopardy."

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        There is a reason why I post here

        The article did not elude mentioning the original deadline. In fact, it even alluded to it.

        (...the reason, by the way, is that this is one of the few places on the internet where one can be anal about grammar and spelling and not be shot down for it.)

        1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

          Let the homonym games begin!

          Yet BigFire's "pretax" for "pretext" seems to have eluded you.

          We're well on the way to writing a new article here. "He alluded to LightSquared's pretax losses following from the elusive FCC approval as the pretext for rejecting their business plan and its illusory promise of vast future earnings."

  3. Terry H

    Money can open a lot of doors

    But not every single door. Just ask ATT. I have yet to read the true technical impact (granted I haven't searched But it seems the story in FCC speak "Yes, LightSquared generates harmful interference with primary use licensed operators" in adjacent bands.

    Primary use is often important, but likely not here. The principle is that a primary user gets to, shockingly, Use the spectrum. Often the FCC will license a Secondary user who can operate within the band but only if they do not impact the primary user. For example Amateur Radio can operate in the 60MHz band, but only in very specific circumstances and only if it "IN NO WAY" interferes with the primary users.

    An Engineering school drop out could probably have told LightSquared their plan would cause harmful interference from reading the initial executive summary. LightSquared went ahead under the assumption that it was easier to Beg Forgiveness Than Ask Permission.

    In their defense, this has historically worked with the federal bureaucrats. However right now the public are in a frenzy over the (mis-)government of the country. Pounding the crap out of ATT and LightSquared is a quick and easy way to show that someone is actually minding the store.

    1. Lance 3

      But LightSquared owns the spectrum they want to use. it neighbors the GPS, but is not *IN* the GPS band. The root of the issue is that it was licensed as a satellite to ground/device based communication just like GPS is. It is what LightSquared wants to now use the spectrum for that *IS* the issue. They want tower to device and by doing so, the output power is much higher due to the tower being closer to the device than the GPS satellite is to the GPS device. It is well known that interference happens on neighboring bands. This is true with radio and TV stations and why two stations are not on direct neighboring bands in the same market. Ironically it is the FCC that says that a directional antennae might help but not guaranteed. They make no mention of filters, etc. So LightSquared for the most part is up a creek as FCC only gave them the waiver with conditions so that LightSquared could prove that there would be no interference issues but LightSquared also had to satisfy it to the satisfaction of the commission. The FCC pulled the waiver in June/July. So why companies poured money into LightSqaured after that is beyond me. LoghtSquared has no waiver and can only use their spectrum as it was originally sold.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Never going to happen, never was

    GPS is first and foremost a military system for targeting missiles, commercial use is a lucky spin-off. Do you really think the FCC has a choice about risking screwing it up?

  5. auburnman

    It's a bit like the FCC and Sprint are playing chicken...

    Call me cynical, but I think with the way things have developed they both want LightSquared to go away but don't want to be first to blink. Like the article says LightSquared are running out of funds so the FCC might hope they can dither long enough that the problem ceases to exist.

    1. Lance 3

      The waiver was granted but with conditions. One of the conditions was that the interference issue had to be resolved to the satisfaction of the commission before a commercial network could be turned on. In June the FCC rescinded the waiver.

      This is from the FCC regarding the interference issue:

      "The technical working group effort identified significant technical issues related to potential

      LightSquared operations in the upper portion of the L-Band, which is most proximate to the band used

      by GPS. Over more than three months, the technical working group tested more than 130 representative

      devices in seven different receiver categories, in a number of different test environments. The tests

      demonstrated potentially significant interference between LightSquared operations in the upper portion

      of the band and various GPS receivers. The tests also identified some interference issues in the lower 10

      MHz portion of the band. The overall conclusion of the testing is that transmissions in the upper 10

      MHz channel —the channel nearest to the 1559-1610 MHz GPS band — will adversely affect the

      performance of a significant number of legacy GPS receivers."

      The FCC doesn't have to say anything to LightSquared at all. The waiver was rescinded as the FCC exercised their power that the interference issue was not resolved to their satisfaction. Mainly what LightSquared did was suggest the use of filters. That is not an acceptable solution to all of the existing GPS receivers out there.

      Since LightSquared had this spectrum they have been given waiver after waiver as they changed their mind on how they were going to build their network out and how it would be used. So since the start, LightSquared has not had a viable plan. The FCC should just ignore their requests as more than enough has been done for them.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    GPS is more important

    It's not just a question of interfering with missiles - if they're firing missiles within the US then things have already gone far enough wrong for it to be no problem to just pull the plug from the wall at Light Squared just before the red buttons get pressed.

    A real issue is that general aviation (that's all the little planes) use GPS to support navigation and it's simply not acceptable to say "fit filters" when that really means go through an entire FAA re-certification programme for each piece of modified avionics.

    Interfering with GPS signals will seriously damage general aviation and undo about two decades of progress in flight safety and "situational awareness" for private and small business pilots.

    Comparing the need for users to update their Facebook pages a little bit faster whilst travelling in a car, versus the need for pilots to be able to make emergency landings safely in poor weather at small airfields (which often don't have the instrument landing systems found at the big airports) must be the ultimate no-brainer.

  7. leszekp

    Not right.

    The article states that LightSquared's modified system only interferes with high-precision GPS receivers - that's not correct. The latest NTIA tests showed that 75% of general-purpose GPS receivers (e.g. car systems and handheld models) would suffer significant interference from LightSquared's system. As would terrain avoidance systems in commercial aircraft, which are kind of important. Only cellphone GPS receivers showed no serious effects, but these are inherently less accurate.

    All this is moot, though. The latest Defense Authorization Act, passed last month by Congress and signed by Obama early this year, contains a clause stating that the FCC can't approve LightSquared unless the Defense Department states that all their interference concerns have been resolved to their satisfaction. Even if this happens (which they've made clear is very, very unlikely), it won't happen until the next round of tests on high-precision receivers is completed, those haven't even started yet, and they'll take at least 90 days to do. The Sprint deal is dead, and LightSquared is probably dead as well. Good riddance, too.

    Dish Network is working on their own wireless broadband network, though, in a frequency band that doesn't interfere with GPS, so the idea isn't dead.

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