The end to Global Position System (GPS) technology as we know it could soon be near. At least that’s what the Coalition to Save our GPS is afraid of.
The concern over GPS technology stems from a recent waiver granted by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to a company called LightSquared. LightSquared wants to dramatically expand the broadband network by building 40,000 ground stations. The problem is these ground stations would operate at power levels more than one billion times the power of GPS signals as received on earth. The strength of the broadband network would interfere with GPS signals.
According to a spokesperson for the Coalition to Save our GPS, the consequences of disruption to GPS signals are far-reaching: LightSquared’s facilities could create 40,000 “dead spots” -- each miles in diameter -– throughout U.S. cities. Agriculture is just one of many industries that could be impacted.
The FCC has said consistently it will not move forward if the expansion of the broadband network interferes with GPS. There might also be technical fixes that could avert the problem.
“We don’t believe there are technical fixes or filters that would solve or fix the interference,” says Anne Tyrrell, a spokesperson for the Coalition to Save our GPS. “The practical solution is to find spectrum that LightSquared can operate in without interfering with GPS.”
Tests by Deere & Company show that LightSquared’s signal massively interfered with John Deere’s GPS receiver equipment. Deere receivers registered impact of and interference by the LightSquared signal as far away as 22 miles from a transmitter. Deere & Company contends it has found no practical technical solution to the problem.
According to Chris Stern, a LightSquared company spokesperon, LightSquared does not plan to launch the broadband network until it has a comprehensive solution to the GPS problem in place. "We need to solve the problem because we can't let a giant piece of the spectrum lay fallow," he notes. "We need broadband in rural areas and LightSquared is committed to getting broadband to rural areas."
A report from LightSquared on potential interference is due to the FCC on Wednesday, June 15. After the FCC receives the report, a public comment period will ensue.