LightSquared Slams Leak on GPS Tests, Expects to Win

The carrier says someone inside the government leaked interference test data to hurt its bid for a network

By Stephen Lawson
Mon, December 12, 2011

IDG News Service — LightSquared believes a government official selectively leaked results from tests of its proposed mobile broadband network to set public opinion against the company, and it is seeking a federal investigation of the apparent leak.

But executives of the fledgling carrier, which plans to build a national LTE (Long Term Evolution) network in spectrum near GPS frequencies, said they are still confident of getting government approval in time to launch the network next year.

"The tide is on our side completely in terms of getting through this process," LightSquared General Counsel Curtis Lu said on a conference call with reporters on Monday.

The company believes the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) will be able to make a decision in the first quarter of next year and will rule in LightSquared's favor, said Martin Harriman, executive vice president of ecosystem development and satellite business. LightSquared has said it could launch the network within nine months of receiving government approval.

However, the company faces several hurdles on the way to that launch, including one more set of tests in January and a variety of political challenges.

LightSquared's plan for a network of 40,000 LTE base stations, on which it would sell mobile data service wholesale to other carriers, has been plagued by controversy over possible interference with GPS receivers. Last month, the National Coordination Office for Space-Based Positioning, Navigation, and Timing (PNT) oversaw the second set of tests to determine the danger of interference.

On Monday, LightSquared slammed a Friday report by Bloomberg News, which said the tests had shown that the LTE network would interfere with 75 percent of GPS devices tested. The article was based on selective data, excluded interpretation that hasn't been finished yet, and reflected power levels 32 times higher than LightSquared actually plans to use, company officials said.

"It is apparent that this leak was intended to damage LightSquared's reputation, spread false information in the marketplace, and prejudice public opinion against LightSquared" before a full analysis of the rest results is presented to the FCC and other key agencies, LightSquared CEO Sanjiv Ahuja said in a letter to the co-chairs of the National Executive Committee for Space-based PNT. He asked for a public statement to clarify the information and an investigation into the circumstances of the leak.

"This came from someone inside the government process, and it's an outrage, and LightSquared is extremely disappointed," Harriman said on the conference call.

The PNT executive committee is scheduled to review the results of the tests at a meeting on Wednesday and will report its conclusions to the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), which ordered the testing. NTIA, in turn, will pass on its findings to the FCC, LightSquared's Harriman said.

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