LightSquared Renders Garmin and GM’s GPS Systems Useless

A new set of government tests showed that LightSquared’s proposed mobile broadband network disrupted the signal strength to all GPS devices in the test area. The National Space-Based PNT Advisory Board reported yesterday that a series of 32 tests showed significant interference on GPS system receivers used by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), John Deer, U.S. Coast Guard, NASA and Garmin (GRMN).

Last week, construction giant Deere & Co. reported that during recent testing in New Mexico, LightSquared’s network hobbled it’s GPS systems more than 20 miles away. Local law enforcement also reported police cars and ambulances lost GPS signals. A separate Federal Aviation Administration-commissioned study found that “GPS operations below 2000 feet (elevation) would be unavailable over a large radius of metro (areas)” for aircraft.

While all global-positioning system (GPS) devices tested were affected, the severity of the loss of service varied, said Deane Bunce, co-chair of the National PNT Engineering Forum, a federal advisory group of engineers that oversaw the government tests, according to the Wall St. Journal. Mr. Bunce said some GPS devices lost signal strength while others were knocked out completely. For example, the government tests found that General Motors’ (GM) OnStar system saw a “significant degradation of service” on most receivers tested.

Apparently LightSquared’s GPS issues are more serious and wide-spread than previously known. “It will cause interference. It will cause devastating interference,” said James Kirkland, vice president and general counsel of Trimble Navigation Ltd., a GPS maker. “There is not a solution here. In our view it’s time to stop squandering resources on this and find alternative spectrum for them.”

The interference concerns of GPS system users have become a major problem for LightSquared. The government tests will increase pressure on the Federal Communications Commission to slow down approval of LightSquared’s network.