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Technology / TECHNOLOGY

LightSquared Faces Renewed Criticism After Delayed Report

A cell phone tower rises from a field in Sudbury, Mass.(Darren McCollester/Getty Images)

photo of Josh Smith
June 16, 2011

Critics of LightSquared’s planned broadband network are blaming the company for delaying a report that is expected to detail how the system could interfere with GPS receivers.

The Federal Communications Commission set Wednesday as the deadline for LightSquared to submit the report, which will include research from members of an FCC-mandated working group. But the FCC extended the deadline to July 1 after LightSquared said it did not have enough time to consolidate and prepare the final report.

On Thursday, members of the Coalition to Save Our GPS said the research was on time but LightSquared was behind schedule.

 

“At the minimum, it represents mismanagement by LightSquared,” Jim Kirkland, vice president and general counsel for GPS manufacturer Trimble, told reporters. He said the report will confirm preliminary research that showed LightSquared’s network could drown out GPS transmissions, rendering the global positioning system useless.

But LightSquared spokesman Chris Stern fired back, saying that LightSquared didn’t get research from some other groups until the last minute, leaving the company little time to prepare a comprehensive report.

“The worst thing LightSquared could have done is to let this mess go to the FCC as is,” Stern said. “LightSquared wanted this report as much as anyone, but there was a lot of data coming in at the last minute, literally at the final hour. Waiting was just the right thing to do.”

LightSquared requested the extension on Wednesday evening, and the FCC almost immediately approved the request. The report is required before the FCC can allow LightSquared to fully launch its network.

Despite expressing disappointment that the report was delayed, Trimble’s Kirkland said the FCC has put the approval process on an “extraordinary and unprecedented fast track.” He said the agency was rushing to approve the system without considering all the implications.

FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski, who says LightSquared’s plan is a way to expand broadband access, defended his agency’s review process in a recent letter to Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa.

“It should come as no surprise to anyone involved in the LightSquared matter that the company was planning for some time to deploy a major terrestrial network in the spectrum,” Genachowski wrote.

LightSquared’s plan, which would combine land-based transmitters with a giant satellite and operate on bandwidth next to spectrum used by GPS, has faced increased opposition from lawmakers as well as federal agencies that use GPS.

On Thursday Rep. Mike Turner, R-Ohio, called for the FCC to block the broadband network, citing a report by the National Space-Based Positioning, Navigation, and Timing Systems Engineering Forum which concluded that LightSquared’s system “cannot successfully coexist with GPS.”

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