GPS vs. LightSquared

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

There's been lots of talk in the news lately about a new company called LightSquared, a business based out of Virginia that is planning on building the next open wireless broadband network. This new network will utilize satellites to provide 4G-LTE coverage to millions of broadband Users.

The Global Positioning System (GPS) also uses signals from satellites, along with algorithms, to determine location. GPS functionality has become commonplace for many people around the globe, including automobile and aviation navigation for drivers and pilots, smartphone users, hikers, and military personnel.

Why is there so much concern about the intent of this new company and current GPS technology?

According to PNT (Positioning, Navigation, Timing), LightSquared plans on transmitting signals "immediately adjacent to GPS frequencies". Because LightSquared's transmissions originate from the ground, the concern is that their signals will over-power GPS signals, which originate from space. Although LightSquared and GPS signals will travel on separate frequencies, it is believed that units will favor LightSquared signals over GPS signals because of frequency proximity and strength. This means that all electronics that currently contain GPS components and functionality have the potential to be compromised by LightSquared's signals.

Because this is new technology, LightSquared must achieve FCC approval before their network goes live.

If this is a debate that you're interested in chiming in on, there are a couple of days left to express your concerns and/or opinion. The FCC established a comment deadline of July 30, 2011. Check out the Public Notice for more information.

Either way, it's fun to learn how that little GPS unit that you depend on so much actually works!