Using cutting edge technology, LightSquared is poised to release its new ultra-fast high speed wireless broadband network in 2011. Billions of dollars have already been invested and the first satellite was launched in November of 2010. This exciting 4G (fourth generation) LTE (long term evolution) network is not without problems, however, and has many people concerned from investors to U.S. Senators.
- GPS interference – The main concern is that the airwave frequency they plan to use is very close to the one used by current GPS navigation systems. Many fear that the stronger signal from the LightSquared system will overpower the sensitive satellite receivers in existing equipment and cause any number of problems. Senators Pat Roberts and Ben Nelson have written an open letter to their fellow lawmakers expressing their concerns to the FCC.
- Military operations – The pentagon has gotten involved with current investigations of potential problems. They use GPS navigation systems to guide planes, ships, armored vehicles, weapons and troops so any disruption could be catastrophic to their operations.
- Airplanes – Forty percent of private and commercial airlines rely on GPS navigation to stay on course and their backup systems rely on less accurate ground based radio signals. There are also concerns that LightSquared’s network could undermine the FAA’s program to upgrade their air traffic control systems.
- Public safety – Officials are nervous about disruption to their GPS tracking devices for law enforcement, firefighters, and ambulances. Any interference in their 911 emergency response system could be life threatening.
- Vehicle navigation – Companies who provide vehicle navigation systems and the people who use them are also concerned about the effects of potential interference with their products. Many people rely on the GPS based navigation provided by Onstar and others to find their way around.
- FCC – The Federal Communications Commission has jurisdiction over the regulations regarding the proposed LightSquared services and has given permission to use its airwaves for a broader conventional wireless data network. However, the FCC has required further study to determine the true extent of any potential interference and will not allow the network to be implemented until the government is satisfied that all problems have been addressed.
- Funding – The solution to resolve potential problems is to provide current GPS devices with upgraded filters to screen out the high powered frequency of the LightSquared system (by rodriguez). However, the cost for this solution could be anywhere from millions to billions of dollars and investors are nervous about who should have to pay for it.
- Cell phones – Even though some consultants insist that current cell phones should have adequate filters for the LightSquared signal, manufacturers are not convinced. Their consultants believe that the current cell phone equipment will also need to be upgraded to prevent problems.
- NTIA – The National Telecommunications and Information Administration is upset over the FCC relaxing the rules over spectrum usage for LightSquared. They’re concerned about how the wholesale customers will interpret the rules regarding what services will be provided to the end users, the consumers.
- Competitors – Large wireless network rivals like AT&T and Verizon are worried about the added competition from LightSquared if their planned release ever comes to fruition. They’ve enjoyed top dog status up until now and risk losing ground to their lesser known rival. Of course, more competition is always better for consumers.
As LightSquared is ready to revolutionize the broadband industry, their excitement is tempered by the concerns of many. They want to unleash the boundless opportunity of wireless broadband connectivity nationwide while others say not so fast. Until the FCC, NTIA, Congress, and the Pentagon have completed their investigations and are satisfied with the results, the wholesale 4G, LTE network won’t be turned on.