LightSquared CEO Publicly Addresses GPS Interference Concerns

This week LightSquared is pulling out all the stops in a very public attempt to gain national support for its proposed wireless network. The company purchased several ads in publications such as The Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, Market Watch and the Washington Post.

The paid advertisements took the form of a direct letter from LightSquared’s CEO to the American public. The letter presents some compelling reasons why LightSquared’s network is good for the country and the US economy. The company also appears to be defending itself by shifting the blame onto others.

In the letter, LightSquared CEO Sanjiv Ahuja claims that LightSquared has solved the problem of rural telecommunications, successfully addressed FCC concerns that its technology interferes with GPS devices, and will create thousands of jobs in the process. “The current nationwide wireless providers have failed to innovate and in the process have failed to keep pace with consumer and technological demands,” Ahuja said in the letter’s second paragraph.

It’s unclear, however, what Ahuja then implies two paragraphs later, after he introduces the “concerns” which have been raised about interference with GPS devices. He indicates his company isn’t at fault.

“Recently, concerns have been raised about interference with GPS devices,” Ahuja wrote. “We take these concerns very seriously. Despite the fact that the interference is caused by others’ inappropriate use of LightSquared’s licensed spectrum, we have been proactive in working toward a solution to the GPS issue.”

The “concerns” in question were raised by RTCA Inc., whose report to two House subcommittees in June concluded that LightSquared’s technology would block airplane GPS under 2,000 feet. After LightSquared developed an alternative plan, an FAA report claimed it would kill over 790 people. LightSquared then countered by partnering with a filter manufacturer and offering to use the technology to retrofit the affected GPSes.

Ahuja also claimed that the company has spent $150 million in designing its solution for GPS, which will address the remaining 0.5 percent of GPS interference. When it is completed, he said, it will bring 75,000 jobs over the next five years.

Here is a full copy of the letter:

“To Americans everywhere,

Today, with limited competition in the U.S. wireless market, there are still vast areas of our country without access to broadband. Other areas are plagued by dropped calls and weak signals.

broadcast-tower[1]America’s wireless infrastructure is at a critical crossroad as weak signals, dead-zones, and over-subscribed networks risk stalling American innovation and failing to meet consumer needs now and in the future. Within the next 24 months, demand for broadband wireless will outstrip the current total spectrum available in the United States–jeopardizing everything from the smartphones and tablets we love to the emergency responder services we rely upon to keep us safe. The current nationwide wireless providers have failed to innovate and in the process have failed to keep pace with consumer and technological demands.

Understanding this impending reality, LightSquared began investing nearly a decade ago in the development of America’s first state-of-the-art nationwide wireless broadband network integrated with satellite coverage to provide high quality broadband access and affordability for all Americans. After the review of our engineering and technological plans, LightSquared received the license to operate our network in 2003 and again in 2005 with the full endorsement of the GPS industry. Half a dozen years ago, Republican and Democrat regulators and policy experts understood the impending crisis caused by a lack of competition and innovation, and they, too, endorsed our plan to bring an affordable solution to Americans no matter where they live.

Recently, concerns have been raised about interference with GPS devices. We take these concerns very seriously. Despite the fact that the interference is caused by others’ inappropriate use of LightSquared’s licensed spectrum, we have been proactive in working toward a solution to the GPS issue. We are making a $150 million private investment in the solution for GPS. We have moved our spectrum farther away from the core GPS frequencies and at the request of the FCC, we set up, funded, and ran the largest and most comprehensive testing program this country has ever seen.

Hundreds of engineers tested hundreds of devices in laboratories around the country, providing experts an enormous bank of data to assess the extent of the problem and design the solution.

With 99.5 percent of all commercial GPS interference accounted for and solved, LightSquared has now tackled solving the remaining .5 percent of GPS interference occurring on precision devices that also inappropriately violate our licensed spectrum. We have partnered with established GPS manufacturers to develop technology that eliminates interference issues for high-precision GPS devices, including those in the agriculture, surveying, construction, and defense industries. Pre-production designs are already in testing; once completed, this technology can be implemented simply, quickly, and inexpensively into GPS devices.

This solution allows our network to coexist harmoniously, side by side, with GPS–generating much-needed competition in the marketplace and ultimately providing more than 260 million Americans with access to wireless broadband.

The facts are clear. The need for additional wireless broadband is imminent. The desire to expand free-market competition and to provide consumers with broader access has been the hallmark of both Republican and Democrat policy makers for more than a decade. Regulators from both Democrat and Republican Administrations have conducted reviews and tests of the LightSquared network–the most extensive in the history of the FCC–and both have reached the same conclusions: they support the LightSquared network.

LightSquared’s commitment to infuse $14 billion of private investment–without any government funding–into America’s infrastructure will bring 75,000 jobs over the next five years, competition, and innovation to the U.S. wireless industry, with affordable prices and better service for Americans everywhere. I hope you will join with us as we work to build the 21st-century communications network all Americans deserve.”

LightSquared says a total of $14 billion has been spent in developing its own LTE network, which it will license out to customers to build their own network. One of those carriers is Sprint (NYSE:S), which signed a 15-year deal to host its network.

 

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