Lightsquared Disrupts Airplane Navigation GPS, Feds Say - InformationWeek

InformationWeek is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them.Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

IoT
IoT
Mobile

Lightsquared Disrupts Airplane Navigation GPS, Feds Say

Nationwide 4G service owners fire back against government report that wireless broadband service interferes with systems that alert pilots to approaching terrain.

NASA's Next Mission: Deep Space
NASA's Next Mission: Deep Space
(click image for larger view and for slideshow)
Federal agencies have found that Lighsquared's proposed wireless broadband service will interfere with GPS that aids in airplane navigation.

The news is a setback to deployment of the ambitious 4G terrestrial-satellite-based service--which the company said could provide mobile high-speed Internet service to as many as 260 million people across the United States.

A government group tested the service's interference with various devices and presented the findings to the Space-Based Positioning Navigation and Timing Executive Committee, which includes members of the Department of Defense and Department of Transportation.

[ The government needs to do a better job of protecting the nation's infrastructure. Read Smart Grid Security Threatened By Fragmented Control. ]

A joint statement from the two departments said that tests found that the service won't interfere significantly with cellular telephones, but a separate analysis by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) showed that its signals interfered with a flight safety system designed to warn pilots of approaching terrain.

The service also caused "harmful interference" to the majority of other general-purpose GPS receivers that were tested, according to the agencies.

The group will send a final test report to the National Telecommunications and Information Agency (NTIA), which helps the president set telecommunications policy and represents federal agencies to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). The NTIA will then present the report to the FCC, which is responsible for approving the Lightsquared service.

In response, Lightsquared issued a statement to "profoundly disagree with the conclusions drawn with respect to general navigation devices."

The company said, "LightSquared has had the legal and regulatory right to use its spectrum for eight years over two administrations. The testing further confirmed that the interference issues are not caused by LightSquared's spectrum, but by GPS devices looking into spectrum that is licensed to LightSquared. We have taken extraordinary measures--and at extraordinary expense--to solve a problem that is not of our making."

Serious capital has already gone behind the creation of Lightsquared's nationwide Long-Term Evolution network, which aims to use 40,000 cellular basestations, plus Sky Terra satellites, to cover 92% of the U.S. population by 2015. New York-based billionaire Phil Falcone has invested $3 billion in the service through his investment firm Harbinger Capital Partners, which launched Lightsquared.

The company also has lined up some significant partners. It recently inked a $7 billion contract with Nokia Siemens Networks to build and operate the network, and another deal with Airspan Networks, which will utilize LightSquared's spectrum for smartgrid applications in various utility markets.

How 10 federal agencies are tapping the power of cloud computing--without compromising security. Also in the new, all-digital InformationWeek Government supplement: To judge the success of the OMB's IT reform efforts, we need concrete numbers on cost savings and returns. Download our Cloud In Action issue of InformationWeek Government now. (Free registration required.)

-- JHtest

We welcome your comments on this topic on our social media channels, or [contact us directly] with questions about the site.
Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
Bprince
50%
50%
Bprince,
User Rank: Apprentice
12/18/2011 | 6:12:08 PM
re: Lightsquared Disrupts Airplane Navigation GPS, Feds Say
Interesting story. I wonder sometimes if the FAA doesn't try to err on the side of caution, which for example would explain why all electronic devices have to get turned off on an airplane before landing (such as my iPod).
Brian Prince, InformationWeek/Dark Reading Comment Moderator
TheMoMan
50%
50%
TheMoMan,
User Rank: Apprentice
12/16/2011 | 3:22:01 PM
re: Lightsquared Disrupts Airplane Navigation GPS, Feds Say
No one is saying that LightSquared cannot use their satellite. Just that the definition of an ancillary network does not mean putting up a repeater on every one of Sprints towers. Thereby drowning out the signals from the military GPS birds. The signals from those towers would be too strong for Onstar, SiriusFX,Timing signals to railroads,TV Stations, 911 call centers to work. Also the FAA has a lot more money from the airline industry invested in its ground avoidance system. That Satellite you speak of is almost a decade old, Now LightSquared wants to use that Satellites frequencies for ground to ground not SPACE to GROUND.
Dwayne Bozworth
50%
50%
Dwayne Bozworth,
User Rank: Apprentice
12/16/2011 | 12:36:39 AM
re: Lightsquared Disrupts Airplane Navigation GPS, Feds Say
Hi and thanks, Tom!
Tom LaSusa
50%
50%
Tom LaSusa,
User Rank: Apprentice
12/15/2011 | 8:37:19 PM
re: Lightsquared Disrupts Airplane Navigation GPS, Feds Say
hi Dwayne,

No, it wasn't deleted. Our policy is to pre-screen any posts that include an outside link, so as to curtail the amount of spam that crops up on the site. Once we check the link, the comment gets pushed live...as you can see it was :)

Best
Tom LaSusa
InformationWeek Community Manager
Dwayne Bozworth
50%
50%
Dwayne Bozworth,
User Rank: Apprentice
12/15/2011 | 8:27:56 PM
re: Lightsquared Disrupts Airplane Navigation GPS, Feds Say
Hmm. Seems my last comment was deleted.

Maybe the FAA needs to pay for a replacement satellite or updated navigation equipment due to lax Quality Control Standards. Either way, rocket scientists were involved, and now it seems like someone is being paid off to ensure the satellite can't be used as intended.

Maybe it was AT&T who is paying people off, and keeping the satellite from being used... They seem to have a lot of money set aside for political reasons.

Either way, we need more educated pilots, like Chesley Sullenberger, who bravely flew an Airbus into the Hudson River safely, without GPS..! There were no casualties
Dwayne Bozworth
50%
50%
Dwayne Bozworth,
User Rank: Apprentice
12/15/2011 | 8:15:00 PM
re: Lightsquared Disrupts Airplane Navigation GPS, Feds Say
Who approved the spectrum, and applied Quality Assurance for existing equipment??

It takes a lot of capital investment and smart rocket scientists to get a satellite in orbit, then someone says it can't be used? What the hell!

Perhaps someone at the FCC is at fault, or maybe it's the lax approvals and quality-assurance metrics at the FAA. Either way, a satellite was paid for, launched, put into orbit, and now someone says it can't be used?

Someone's head is going to be on a platter, because if the FCC allowed the spectrum to be used, and the FAA says it can't work, well, I guess the FAA should pay full replacement costs for something that works which may mean new navigation equipment, or a new satellite placed into orbit which works with things within the FAA's area of "expertise".

Besides, why can't we just go back to hiring good airplane pilots who know how to fly a plane? Does everything have to be controlled by robots and computers? Captain Sullenberger didn't need GPS to safely fly a plane into the Hudson River. We need more educated workforce, including airline pilots like Sully. I guess airlines are so cheap that they'd rather make up stories than paying airplane pilots what they are worth.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/C...
Slideshows
IT Careers: 10 Industries with Job Openings Right Now
Cynthia Harvey, Freelance Journalist, InformationWeek,  5/27/2020
Commentary
How 5G Rollout May Benefit Businesses More than Consumers
Joao-Pierre S. Ruth, Senior Writer,  5/21/2020
News
IT Leadership in Education: Getting Online School Right
Jessica Davis, Senior Editor, Enterprise Apps,  5/20/2020
White Papers
Register for InformationWeek Newsletters
The State of IT & Cybersecurity Operations 2020
The State of IT & Cybersecurity Operations 2020
Download this report from InformationWeek, in partnership with Dark Reading, to learn more about how today's IT operations teams work with cybersecurity operations, what technologies they are using, and how they communicate and share responsibility--or create risk by failing to do so. Get it now!
Video
Current Issue
Key to Cloud Success: The Right Management
This IT Trend highlights some of the steps IT teams can take to keep their cloud environments running in a safe, efficient manner.
Slideshows
Flash Poll