Lightsquared–Why are we still talking about it?

In case you haven’t heard of Lightsquared by now, it is a company trying to build a 4G LTE wireless broadband network that tests have determined would significantly interfere with GPS signals. Its band would be immediately adjacent to GPS frequencies and would affect GPS’ ability to function properly.

No matter which side of this controversy you are on, there is no denying Lightsquared is a huge threat to the nation’s GPS. With recent reports finding that Lightsquared’s network interferes with 75 percent of GPS technology, it stands to reason this fight should be over.

Those of us in the business of GPS are well aware of the far-reaching impacts of interference: it would have devastating effects on the U.S. military, emergency responders, aviation, homeland security, transportation, land management, disaster management and utilities consumers to name a few. According to a study by Nam D. Pham, Ph.D. (The Economic Benefits of Commercial GPS Use in the United States and the Costs of Potential Disruption), there are more than 3.3 million jobs that rely on GPS technology.

The list of Lightsquared opponents is extensive. The Coalition to Save Our GPS runs a quote on its homepage that says it all: “GPS has become a key component of the U.S. national infrastructure, the driver of a significant part of the civilian economies of the world, and the enabler of millions of professional precision uses and consumer benefits. The viability of the GPS signal is now threatened – ironically by what appears to be a misguided attempt to increase accessibility to broadband by creating a needless zero-sum result for customers who want both services.” (Joe Paiva “Act Now to Protect GPS Signal,” GPS World, February 23, 2011).

In a recent Businessweek article, Thomas Hendricks, senior vice president at Airlines for America, said in his written testimony submitted for a U.S. House hearing that “this matter needs to be put to rest.” So WHY are we still talking about it?