LightSquared Charges that U.S. Testing Was 'Rigged'
A company planning a high-speed wireless service, with coverage for as many as 260 million U.S. customers, is charging that a governmental test of possible GPS interference from its transmissions was "rigged."
On Wednesday, Reston, Va.-based LightSquared said in a statement that the test, conducted by the Space-Based Positioning, Navigation, and Timing Executive Committee (PNT EXCOM), was manipulated by "manufacturers of GPS receivers and government end users to produce bogus results."
LightSquared is looking to provide what it describes as the first wholesale-only integrated wireless broadband and satellite network in the U.S. The company asked the National Telecommunication and Information Administration (NTIA), which oversaw the testing, to "objectively re-evaluate" the results, and to evaluate proposals the company has offered to mitigate interference. It has also requested that the NTIA and the Federal Communications Commission conduct a second round of tests at an independent lab.
'Cherry-Picked' GPS Devices
Company executives cited several ways in which, they said, the tests were manipulated. First, they contend that the test was conducted in a non-transparent, secretive fashion. As an example, LightSquared said the tested GPS devices were "cherry-picked" without independent oversight or input from LightSquared.
The company also contended that testing protocol was "deliberately" focused on "obsolete and niche market devices that were least able to withstand potential interference," including some that had been discontinued or that had poor or no filters. These devices represented no more than 1 percent of the market, according to LightSquared, and it noted that the one mass market device that was said to have failed the PNT EXCOM test, had passed a previous test by the Technical Working Group.
Finally, LightSquared said the testing standard was "an extremely conservative definition of failure," one dB of interference. However, the company said, "independent experts" agree that one dB can only be measured in the lab and has no impact on GPS accuracy or user experience. It noted that GPS devices are intended to deal with eight dB loss of sensitivity due to interference.
'Attacking the Testers'
In a response to LightSquared's charges, GPS maker Trimble Navigation Ltd. said in a statement that the company "does not like the test results, so it is attacking the testers." It added that various tests have shown interference with GPS. Preliminary tests by the government have also indicated that LightSquared's transmissions disrupt a system that helps airplanes avoid buildings.
In July, LightSquared had submitted a modified spectrum plan to the FCC, which it said would solve the GPS issues. It contended that its testing showed the plan resolved interference for about 99.5 percent of all commercial GPS devices, including all of the 300 million GPS-enabled phones.
LightSquared, backed by venture funding, has said its goal is to provide a world-class broadband service in the U.S. that would include rural areas and other underserved communities, as well as inject new competition into the wireless market.
It is intending for service providers to resell its network. Sprint has had a network-sharing partnership with LightSquared, but it is now on hold, pending governmental approval.