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LightSquared, GPS industry spar over proposed interference fix

GPS device makers remain skeptical over LightSquared’s proposal to retrofit precision receivers. Even if it does work, the GPS industry certainly doesn’t want to pay for it

The GPS device industry doesn’t think much of LightSquared’s proposed fix for interference problems between GPS receivers and LightSquared’s planned LTE network. Responding to a media conference on Thursday in which LightSquared demoed new antenna and receiver technology (CP: LightSquared says GPS device overhaul will cost $400M), the Coalition to Save Our GPS founding member and Trimble vice president Jim Kirkland had this to say in a statement:

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“LightSquared today has yet again oversimplified and greatly overstated the significance of the claims of vendors to have ‘solved’ the interference issue. There have been many vendor claims that have not proven out in rigorous tests and the demanding tests of marketplace acceptance. Further, this is not a one-size-fits-all situation and a few prototypes developed ‘in a matter of weeks’ does not a solution make. The estimated 750,000 to 1 million high-precision GPS receivers now in use in the United States vary widely: there are hundreds of different high-precision devices used in performing thousands of different tasks. High-precision GPS supports a wide variety of uses, including agriculture, construction, aviation, surveying and many scientific and safety-of-life applications. “

Javad GNSS, led by former Trimble engineer Javad Ashjaee, has developed a new receiver filter design that it claims will separate GPS satellite and GPS augmentation signals from the high-powered LTE signals LightSquared wants to transmit in the L-band. In addition, PCTEL has developed chipsets that can implement the new receiver designs has built filtering components that cost only $6.

“With the U.S. government's modernization program in effect, many legacy receivers will be obsolete in several years regardless,” said Ashjaee said in a LightSquared statement. “Going forward, there is no reason to build high-precision GPS receivers that are not compatible with LightSquared's network. Our research and development has shown that making receivers compatible with LightSquared today produces higher quality results than before.”

The bigger problem, however, are the hundreds of thousands of precision GPS devices already in the field, delivering critical location and timing information to avionics, surveying, agriculture and construction equipment. Those devices will need to be retrofitted or risk being shut down in the presence of a LightSquared transmitter. LightSquared estimates there are about 500,000 such precision devices in use in the U.S., while the GPS coalition estimates the number between 750,000 to 1 million.

According to LightSquared executive vice president of ecosystem development and satellite business Martin Harriman, all of those deployed receivers can be retrofitted, some merely with new antennas while others will factory refits. The NTIA and FCC will review the technologies in coming weeks but LightSquared said, based on its preliminary results, they’ll pass with flying colors. The GPS coalition is far more skeptical pointing toward several other times in the past where LightSquared has claimed to have a technical fix only to return to the drawing board.

LightSquared has estimated that retrofitting 500,000 devices could be accomplished for $400 million. As for who would bear that cost, LightSquared thinks GPS device makers should foot the bill since it claims their receiver designs that are responsible for the interference problems in the first place (CP: Sorting out the LightSquared GPS interference mess). As you might expect, GPS coalition disagrees

“If and when actual solutions are available, LightSquared must accept responsibility for paying to replace the existing base of existing equipment with new product--a responsibility LightSquared is shirking,” Kirkland said. “The costs of replacement are not fully known since a solution has not yet been proven, but it would likely be in the billions.”

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© 2014 Penton Media Inc.

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