Lightsquared On The Move!

Wow. I barely got done telling you a bit about Lightsquared when they make the news again. PC Mag reports that during the CITA wireless show, the company ran a show and tell. People got to see their mobile internet device, and heard about the deals they’ve signed with Best Buy and Cricket.  It seems like Lightsquared’s idea of setting up their hybrid network and selling wholesale access to it is starting to catch on quickly.

It’s also upsetting some companies just as fast. Lightsquared got a conditional waiver from the FCC. They want their land based network to have stronger signals. This has induced a sort of panic in some other companies. I don’t know if it’s based in actual fact, or simply the thought of losing ground/not raking in the money themselves. Several companies have formed a group with the panicky, desperate-sounding name: “Coalition To Save Our GPS”. Their website: 

 All of the pro-GPS articles I’ve read today sound downright hysterical. People are howling about “political favors” being given out, rules being “broken”, ( ) and the complete “unfairness” of an unproven technology being granted government approval. After all, it might mess with GPS systems and have disasterous consequences! ( )

So says the people whose profits are tied to GPS, at any rate. And they’re completely objective, so we should trust them. At least, they huff angrily, they’re more objective than Lightsquared, who’s only out to make money.

They are carrying on as if no one has ever seen government work like this! Perhaps they’ve never seen it work against them.

As an American citizen, not a millionaire CEO, I can tell you that deals, favors, and broken rules happen every day in this government. They usually work out in favor of large, wealthy companies, not smaller upstarts with radical ideas like Lightsquared. (btw, I was wondering how Lightsquared got ahold of some of the airspace they have. They bought out another small company called SkyTerra. )

Lightsquared understands the need for a strong GPS system. It seems to me like these other companies want Lightsquared to act like Burger King and give them everything their way right now. When they talk about resolving issues, this is their position:

“Further, the FCC’s, and NTIA’s, finding that ‘harmful interference concerns have been resolved’ must mean ‘resolved to the satisfaction of preexisting GPS providers and users,” the coalition said. Ah, yes, not to fear…the big companies are only worried that we the people will be harmed. See?  “…GPS users or providers should not have to bear any of the consequences of LightSquared’s actions.”

Awww….I didn’t know they cared. Now why would corporations be so worried about a GPS users quality of experience? Benevolence? Big-hearted generosity? Or fear that if too many people get GPS interference, they won’t know to “blame” Lightsquared. They’ll just stop using the products that are failing them.

I don’t think there’s too much under-handed stuff going on in this situation. Yes, new technology always has kinks that have to be worked out. But there’s something these “concerned” corporations are not saying. A lot of the ways Lightsquared proposes to revamp how airwaves are used and wireless is delivered fall right in line with the FCC’s National Broadband Plan. I’ll talk about that more in another post, but you can read more here if you want:

(h/t to the tin foil hat conspiracy guy whose article I cited above. As Chicken Little as you sounded, your simplified explanation made this easier to understand. Thanks!)

2 thoughts on “Lightsquared On The Move!

  1. Chas,

    Thanks for responding. Maybe I didn’t cut you enough slack. So many of the articles just seemed overly panicky. Part of me feels like if this could be worked out, some of what Lightsquared is working on could also help update the 911 system to make it more multi-functional. There are still parts of the country where it doesn’t have as far a reach as it needs. Some help from satellite coverage might mitigate that. Updating 911 capabilities is also a target of the National Broadband Plan.

    It just seems that instead of all the victimy sounding “Save our GPS from deh evil company that wants to be our new overlordz”, there could be a bit more working together. Yes, they didn’t get their chance at public commentary. But I still don’t have a lot of empathy in that regard. Your average American has to make do with a lot of things the government shoves at us without getting a say.

    Another thing I didn’t like was this assertion that everything Lightsquared does must be proven beyond a shadow of a doubt and not theoretical at all. But if you read the initial white paper at SOG, the whole thing is riddled with conditional language like “might” “may affect” “could have consequences”.

    That’s why I feel like these companies ought to be putting aside all of their wounded pride about not being “properly consulted” and pitch in jointly to create a solid solution. There’s potential for a lot of upside here if they can get over their “do it my way or I’m taking my marbles and going home” attitude.

    Again, thanks for stopping by. I gave you a thumbs up for your comment.

  2. Our FCC tried to sneak this Lightsquared action through without adequate public comment over the Thanksgiving holiday. It would have happened of DoD and FAA hadn’t raised an alarm with the NTIA, the Government Organization that coordinates spectrum for these Government agencies.

    There hasn’t been a GPS problem because the radio spectrum adjacent to GPS has been utilized for low powered signals arriving from space satellites. The FCC action allows high power terrestrial operations there.

    FAA is currently transitioning to NextGen air traffic control. That system is almost totally dependent upon clean access to GPS signals.

    Organizations who set certifications for the airborne equipments have warned 100,000 (plus) certified GPS avionics receivers have not been designed for operation in the forthcoming Lightsquared electromagnetic environment. They fear network signals will most probably degrade this ultra-reliable equipment and set NextGen back for over a decade. If ongoing testing confirms a problem, only intervention from the highest government levels will allow allow the Lightsquared network to operate.

    So this isn’t only about consumers shelving their car navigators or Geocaching GPS receivers. Few people, including the FCC commissioners, have any idea about applications of GPS technologies.

    I don’t wear a Tin Hat.

    — CHAS

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