FCC seeks public comment on LightSquared petition

The would-be LTE carrier wants the FCC to say that GPS devices aren't entitled to interference protection

The U.S. Federal Communications Commission is seeking public comment on a petition by embattled mobile startup LightSquared that says GPS receivers aren't entitled to protection from interference.

LightSquared wants to operate a 4G mobile data network using radio spectrum next to the GPS (Global Positioning System) band. Tests have shown interference between that proposed network and GPS, and under a conditional waiver from the FCC, LightSquared can't launch until interference concerns have been resolved.

The carrier says GPS receivers, such as cellphones, car navigation units and aviation equipment, improperly use its licensed frequencies because they were built with inadequate filters. It also claims tests have been rigged to show harmful interference. After conflict between LightSquared and GPS makers heated up, last month LightSquared asked the FCC for a declaratory ruling that GPS receivers do not have the right to use its spectrum without interference.

The FCC announced the public comment period on Friday. In its public notice, the agency said comments must be submitted within 30 days, for a deadline of Feb. 27. After that, the FCC will accept responses to those comments for 15 days, or until March 13.

The debate over LightSquared's plan pits growing demand for mobile broadband against the importance of GPS for personal, business and government applications. The carrier wants to offer both a satellite-based mobile data service spanning North America and a faster LTE (Long-Term Evolution) service in metropolitan areas. LightSquared will sell its services wholesale to other carriers, who will be able to sell either satellite or LTE services or both.

Stephen Lawson covers mobile, storage and networking technologies for The IDG News Service. Follow Stephen on Twitter at @sdlawsonmedia. Stephen's e-mail address is stephen_lawson@idg.com

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