LightSquared Reports on GPS Testing Process

LightSquared has begun planning for GPS interference tests that will determine whether it can roll out a combination satellite-LTE mobile data network and issued the first of several required monthly reports on the process.

The fledgling carrier plans to build a high-speed LTE (Long-Term Evolution) cellular network across the U.S. and augment its reach with satellite coverage, offering access to the network to mobile operators that could resell either type of service to their customers. But GPS (Global Positioning System) companies fought the company's bid for approval from the U.S. Federal Communications Commission, warning that running cellular services in the radio band that LightSquared plans to use could degrade GPS performance.

The FCC granted LightSquared a waiver to allow the network to go forward but required the carrier to organize an interference testing program and include participants from the GPS industry. LightSquared has to report back on the 15th day of every month until it submits the findings on June 15.

In its March report, issued Tuesday, the carrier gave information about the group it has formed and how they are going to plan their tests. The Technical Working Group in charge of testing has 34 members, including several from GPS vendor Garmin International and representatives from other companies in the GPS business. There are also members from Verizon Wireless and Sprint Nextel and from NASA, the Federal Aviation Administration and other government agencies.

The group will design tests to determine whether the LTE network could affect the accuracy, coverage and continuous availability of GPS, as well as other factors. Tests will take place both in labs and in the field, with precautions to prevent harm from the tests. For example, the group will notify mobile operators and public-safety agencies of upcoming field tests and will work with the FAA to warn pilots who might fly over the area where the tests are being held.

Some potential effects on GPS, such as the aggregate interference to GPS avionics required for in-flight navigation, can only be determined by analysis, not testing, the report noted.

Before its next monthly report, the group will write a test plan and work on determining what kinds of GPS equipment to test for interference. Testing will take place in April and May in preparation for the final report on June 15.

Stephen Lawson covers mobile, storage and networking technologies for The IDG News Service. Follow Stephen on Twitter at @sdlawsonmedia. Stephen's e-mail address is stephen_lawson@idg.com

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