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LightSquared fights the results of USAF interference testing, even as it faces accusations of bribery

As if consistent quarterly losses weren't bad enough, Sprint Nextel Corp. (S) may now be looking for alternative financing for its transition from WiMAX to LTE -- the industry standard, thanks to U.S. adoption by Verizon Wireless, the joint venture between Verizon Communications Inc. (VZ) and Vodafone Group Plc. (LON:VOD), and AT&T, Inc. (T) [1][2].

I. LightSquared Collapse Sends Shockwaves Through Wireless Industry

Sprint, which recently signed a $15B USD contract to deploy LightSquared's terrestrial LTE, had hoped to launch LTE handsets near the start of H2 2012, but it now may be forced back to the drawing board as its partner find itself entangled in a sordid mess of accusations regarding design negligence and political bribery.

It's been an odd year in the telecom industry.  AT&T tried fruitlessly to gobble up Deutsche Telekom AG's (ETR:DTE) T-Mobile USA, hoping to sway U.S. regulators with "suicide-pact" like terms, which would force it to pay big lump sums of spectrum and cash to DT AG if the deal collapsed.  When the deal did collapse AT&T was forced to reap the sour terms it sewed.

But all the oddness of T-Mobile-gate looks pedestrian in comparison with the case of LightSquared v. the U.S. Air Force -- one of the oddest conflicts in the wireless industry in the last decade.

GPS LightSquared
LightSquared's $15B USD with Sprint is almost sunk thanks to U.S. Air Force claims that it would cripple 75 percent of GPS devices. [Image Source: O-Digital]

The sinking hopes of LightSquared are a blow to many in the U.S. market.

The conflict is also a setback for AT&T and Verizon, which hoped to leverage the company's independent spectrum to beef up their networks.  But most of all, it's a setback to very small service providers that lacked the kind of financial firepower of Sprint, AT&T, and Verizon -- companies that would be incapable of deploying LTE on their own.

II. Falcone's Rise From Blue Collar to Billionaire

LightSquared began with an ambitious premise -- to provide independent 4G spectrum across the U.S.  Describes independent analyst Jeff Kagan, "It was based on a brilliant idea, and it would have solved the nation's growing wireless data spectrum shortage if it had panned out -- offering spectrum and related services to a wide variety of companies, not just AT&T and Verizon."

The company was the brainchild of Philip Falcone, an unusual self-made billionaire veteran of the finance industry.  Mr. Falcone grew up the son of a utility superintendent, but worked hard to receive a Bachelor's degree in Economics from Harvard University, while on financial aid, and then took a year off after graduation to play professional ice hockey in Sweden.  Mr. Falcone was forced to abdicate his brief pro-sports career after a head injury -- an increasingly familiar story in today's national hockey league.

Phillip Falcone hockey
Phillip Falcone briefly went pro in hockey, after being a key player at Harvard.
[Image Source: Harvard University]

But that end proved the beginning of a fruitful career as an accounts executive.  Living the American dream, the hockey fanatic from Chisholm, Minn. soon became a billionaire thanks to his string of successes.

In the early 1990s Mr. Falcone sunk his money into Skyterra, a satellite communications firm, with the goal of launching his own satellite wireless network.  The bid worked, thanks to the successful launch of MSAT-2 in 1995 and MSAT-1 in 1996.

III. The Big Bet -- LTE

After successfully providing cable and 3G technologies for the last decade, LightSquared bet big on LTE.  It launched in 2010 SkyTerra 1, a massive 5.4-ton satellite.  Launched from Russia, the satellite has the largest communications antenna of any commercial satellite in orbit.

SkyTerra 1
SkyTerra 1 was a record-setter. [Image Source: Boeing Comp.]

The company also entered into agreements with Inmarsat plc (LON:ISAT) to merge its 59 MHz of L-Band coverage with Inmarsat's to create a pool to accelerate LTE deployment.

But the ambitious scheme hit a very big roadmap when GPS providers began to complain that that high power signals close to their frequency would cause interference.  The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) -- an executive branch agency that advises the President of the United States as part of the U.S. Department of Commerce -- wrote a letter supporting these claims.

The NTIA advised the U.S. Federal Communications Commission to overturn its early authorization [PDF] of LightSquared's new service, writing [PDF]:

[T]his proposal raises significant interference concerns. Grant of the LightSquared waiver would create a new interference environment and it is incumbent on the FCC to deal with the resulting interference issues before any interference occurs. Several federal agencies with vital concerns about this spectrum band, including the Departments of Defense, Transportation and Homeland Security, have informed NTIA that they believe the FCC should defer action on the LightSquared waiver until these interference concerns are satisfactorily addressed.

The fears were reportedly realized when the U.S. Air Force Space Command's contractors completed tests and found in preliminary tests that the satellite and terrestrial LTE service interfered with GPS satellite signals.  Gen. William L. Shelton -- head of USAF Space Command -- recommended that a license be tentatively denied.

U.S. Air Force Gen. Shelton
Gen. William L. Shelton, head of the U.S. Air Force's Space Command, condemned the LightSquared test results. [Image Source: Space Foundation]

The testing indicated that the service would interfere with an astonishing 75 percent of GPS receivers, leading to questions of how the FCC granted it conditional approval in the first place.

IV. LightSquared Fires Back

In a bitter press release last week, LightSquared fired back attacking the U.S. Air Force for what it sees as incompetent testing.  It writes:

In a call with reporters, Jeff Carlisle, LightSquared’s Executive Vice President, Regulatory Affairs and Public Policy; and Geoff Stearn, LightSquared’s Vice President for Spectrum Development; outlined how GPS industry insiders and government end users manipulated the latest round of tests to generate biased results. Also on the call was Edmond Thomas, former chief engineer at the FCC who explained how fair and accurate testing should be conducted.
  1. Testing was shrouded in secrecy, no transparency. The GPS manufacturers cherry-picked the devices in secret without any independent oversight authority in place or input from LightSquared. The GPS manufacturers and the government end users put non-disclosure agreements in place for the PNT EXCOM’s tests, preventing any input by an independent authority or from LightSquared before the tests began. This secrecy made it impossible for independent experts to properly oversee or challenge the process and results, thereby leaving taxpayers who paid for the testing no option but to take the PNT EXCOM’s word for it.
  2. The testing protocol deliberately focused on obsolete and niche market devices that were least able to withstand potential interference. When LightSquared finally obtained a list of the devices tested, after all testing in this first phase of tests had been completed, it was able to determine that the testing included many discontinued or niche market devices with poor filters or no filters. The units tested represent less than one percent of the contemporary universe of GPS devices. In fact, the only mass market device alleged to “fail” during this round of testing performed flawlessly during the Technical Working Group testing, which used best practice protocols agreed to by all parties, thus raising doubts about the integrity of PNT EXCOM’s process.
  3. The testing standard does not reflect reality. To guarantee favorable results, the PNT EXCOM selected an extremely conservative definition of failure – one dB of interference. Independent experts agree that a one dB threshold can only be detected in laboratory settings and has no impact on GPS positional accuracy or user experience. In fact, GPS devices are designed with the ability to withstand eight dB or more of loss of sensitivity due to man-caused and natural interference. By setting the definition of interference at one dB, the testing was rigged to ensure that most receivers would fail. It should be noted that PNT EXCOM and others have justified the one dB threshold by citing an International Telecommunication Union (ITU) standard. However, that standard explicitly states that it does not apply to general purpose GPS receivers.
GPS and government end users should have opened the process for transparent review, chosen a representative sample of devices that reflect the scope of general purpose GPS receivers in the marketplace today, applied best practice standards to the testing protocol, and – most importantly, the tests should have been conducted by an independent laboratory rather than by the GPS manufacturers themselves, since they had a large incentive to ensure that the tested receivers would not pass the testing.

LightSquared contends that the outside firm retained by the USAF for GPS concerns -- Space-Based Positioning, Navigation, and Timing Executive Committee, or PNT EXCOM -- delivered bogus results to promote the interests of GPS firms.

Jonathan L. Kramer, founding attorney of Kramer Telecom Law Firm was unimpressed by LightSquared's response.  He remarks in an interview with the E-Commerce Times,  "[The company is behaving like] a petulant kid in the school yard who loses at a game and then claims everyone else cheated.  If there was a legitimate concern about the testing process, then the time to raise that issue was before the testing is done -- not afterwards when you don't get the result you are looking for.  The bottom line is a lot of smart people on both sides of the issue have been involved in the process, and any legitimate concerns should have been identified, discussed and resolved a long time ago."

If LightSquared's hopes are indeed permanently sunk, it will be an interesting case study in governance as nothing like this has occurred in the modern era of telecommunications.  The federal government appears to be well within its authority here, as the U.S. Constitution emphasizes the role of the federal government in provide national defense.  And if the USAF's contracted testing is indeed on level, LightSquared could impair military GPS use, and as a result weaken the national defense.

V. Obama Accused of Accepting Payola to Push Satellite Bid

The issue is further muddied by the fact that Republicans in Washington D.C. accuse the Obama administration of conspiring with LightSquared to push FCC authorization of the unusual high-powered satellite service.  The Washington Post writes:

GOP staffers of the House strategic forces subcommittee accused the White House of trying to influence the testimony of an Air Force general who was speaking about the project's potential to interfere with the Global Positioning System, the satellite network relied on by the military and private industry. The staffers said Gen. William Shelton revealed in an earlier closed meeting that the White House pressured him to include language in his testimony Thursday supporting LightSquared's venture.

Indeed, Barack Obama was an early SkyTerra investor, putting $90,000 USD in the company [source].  While he lost $15,000 USD on that stake, reportedly, he gained a long time financial ally for his campaign and his party's campaigns.

Two days before the waiver for the LTE service was granted, Mr. Falcone and his wife donated the maximum allowed individual donation of $30,400 USD, while LightSquared CEO Sanjiv Ahuja also chipped in his $30,400 USD.  But those donations were mere token gesture versus a much larger fund-raising event that reportedly drew in millions for the President and fellow democrats.  

Obama bribery wide
Obama and D.C. Democrats are accused of taking cash bribes to push through LightSquared's reportedly dangerous service. [Image Source: Politically Incorrect]

An L2 executive next emailed Aneesh Chopra, President Obama’s chief technology advisor (and former LightSquared board member):
Hi Aneesh!
I touched base … Sanjiv Ahuja and he expressed an interest in meeting with you.…  He is going to be in DC next week for a fundraising dinner with the President.
The company's lawyer also drove home the message, sending a redundant email to the White House Chief of Staff:
You may recall that you met with Sanjiv Ahuja about a year ago, with Phil Falcone … as Phil & Sanjiv were finalizing their plans for a new wireless broadband network….  Sanjiv will be at a fund-raiser dinner with the President on September 30 and would like to visit with you … and Aneesh Chopra…
Mr. Ahuja admits the emails do "serious doubts about the fairness and integrity of the entire process", but condemned their release, calling for a formal government investigation into the leak.

VI. What's Next?

New independent tests have just been published that confirm the USAF's contractor's early findings -- LightSquared's LTE would cause substantial GPS interference. 

LightSquared is expected to announce its course of action on Wednesday.  It is rumored that the company is working to negotiate a deal to weaken the strength of its signal, a move experts say could reduce its GPS interference down to about 10 percent of commercial and military devices.

Sources: Washington Post, Light Squared, Forbes [Philip Falcone bio], NTIA

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T-Mobile is laughing in the corner.
By quiksilvr on 1/24/2012 1:50:19 PM , Rating: 4
I honestly see no benefit going with LTE. HSPA is constantly upgrading. Last I heard, HSPA+ has reached 42 Mbp/s and covers over half of Germany's population. There are even talks of Dual-Cell HSPA and MIMO technology working together, bringing that to 84 Mbp/s by the end of this year, and HSPA+ will officially support 168 Mbp/s.

In my opinion, that's more than good enough, especially considering the ridiculous data caps on everything (don't kid yourself, Sprint will eventually start data capping phones. They already cap hotspots and tethering).

RE: T-Mobile is laughing in the corner.
By MeesterNid on 1/24/12, Rating: 0
RE: T-Mobile is laughing in the corner.
By Reclaimer77 on 1/24/2012 5:16:33 PM , Rating: 5
That's stupid logic. If I'm trying to show my friend a video, I want it to download/stream as FAST AS POSSIBLE. That doesn't mean I'm going to hit my cap faster because I'm waiting less for something. Or I'm going to queue up 40 gigs of downloads just because I can, for no reason.

When it comes to technology, faster is ALWAYS better. Get on board with reality guys.

RE: T-Mobile is laughing in the corner.
By quiksilvr on 1/24/2012 5:20:18 PM , Rating: 3
I think his point was what's the point investing hundreds on a high end LTE phone with ridiculous speeds when you can't even fully utilize it? Chances are you'll be streaming videos via WiFi before long.

Speed is good, but whats the point paying for an expensive car that's still hard to find (LTE) if you're driving on the highway for 5 minutes and 25 minutes in residential streets? Get a car with 80% of the performance, available now in most areas, cheaper, and easier for availability for more people? (HSPA+).

RE: T-Mobile is laughing in the corner.
By Reclaimer77 on 1/24/2012 5:39:49 PM , Rating: 1
You can ALWAYS utilize more speed. You seem to be really confused about this. Having faster speeds doesn't mean you're going to hit some cap "faster". It adds CONVENIENCE! Hello? Something these mobile devices were made for.

Also your car analogy is, well...kinda bad. The reason you can't drive fast everywhere is because there's a speed limit and you can get pulled over/arrested. Note there is a difference between SPEED and MILEAGE. Something you guys don't seem to get about LTE. We don't WANT speed limits in our technology, do we?

I don't even want this to be about LTE vs. HSPA or whatever. Just this general attitude by some that faster is bad because you'll artificially hit your cap faster. Which is ridiculous. I don't know many people who use their phones as a media downloading/storage device exclusively.

RE: T-Mobile is laughing in the corner.
By Fritzr on 1/25/2012 2:40:29 AM , Rating: 2
Yes you can get too much performance :P

The Bugatti Veyron can NOT max out on the Autobahn (no speed limit, but the autobahn is not built for 400+ kph)

Tires are good for up to 37 miles at 'only' 248mph ... tire life at top speed is unknown. (The test driver did a 2 way run on a closed test track for a timed average speed of 431kph-267mph) The tires are not overly expensive at £20,000 (US$31,234) each

Gas mileage is measured in gallons per mile at the top end.

LTE is not necessarily dead. Only the Lightsquared attempt to use a band reserved for Earth to Orbit satcom is dead. Verizon can put LTE on any of the bands they own the rights to use.

By Flunk on 1/25/2012 9:44:34 AM , Rating: 2
$31,234 is overly expensive for tires. That's almost double what I paid for my entire car.

LTE is going to stick around and if it exists someone will come up with a novel use for it. Sure we don't need it to do what we currently do with our smartphones but who is to say what we'll want to do next year.

RE: T-Mobile is laughing in the corner.
By Reclaimer77 on 1/25/2012 4:41:36 PM , Rating: 3
Of course you're totally ignoring acceleration and focusing on top speed. The awesome thing about the Veyron is that never before was a car so drivable AND so powerful at the same time. Thanks to it's amazing AWD system, transmission, and insane brakes. The fact that you or I could drive a 1,000 HP beast as easily as a Honda Civic is the technological achievement of the Veyron. Too much performance? I think not.

LTE is not necessarily dead. Only the Lightsquared attempt to use a band reserved for Earth to Orbit satcom is dead.

You didn't even read the article! Satcom is using spectrum that's supposed to be reserved for LTE/Lightsquared. Not the other way around.

By Fritzr on 1/25/2012 9:26:35 PM , Rating: 3
Lightsquared acquired a license for a band that is reserved for low power Earth to Orbit transmissions. This is NOT the designation placed on it by Lightsquared. This is the designation placed on it by the FCC when Lightsquared applied for a license to use this band for Earth to Orbit satellite communications (satcom).

Later Lightsquared executives got the bright idea of building an Earth to Earth (terrestrial) medium to highpower cellphone network that would use the LTE transmission standard on the frequency band that they had a satcom license for. This is a violation of FCC frequency allocations, it is a violation of the License granted to Lightsquared, it is proven to interfere with licensed usage complying with license restrictions.

LTE does NOT require the use of the frequencies that Lightsquared previously used for satcom. The existing cellphone bands work just fine which is why you can buy LTE phones and use them on LTE networks today.

The only connection between LTE and the Lightsquared licensing problem is that the highpowered, high interference usage Lightsquared planned would be using the LTE standard for transmission.

RE: T-Mobile is laughing in the corner.
By mevans336 on 1/24/2012 6:14:54 PM , Rating: 3
Get a car with 80% of the performance, available now in most areas, cheaper, and easier for availability for more people? (HSPA+).

Question 1. Which device would perform better for you? A device that has on average 250ms of latency, or a device that has on average 100ms of latency?

Question 2. Which device would perform better for you? A device connected to a base station that has never had its backhaul upgraded beyond a few bonded T-1's? Or a device that is connected to a base-station that mandates a minimum of 100Mbps of backhaul throughput?

Maximum "Over-The-Air" throughput is largely irrelevant for the majority of users, but a tower being able to support a large number of users via sufficient backhaul and a device that is capable of sending and receive responses 2.5x as quickly will surely provide a better experience.

I've used HSPA, HSPA+, and now LTE devices. LTE devices provide a noticeably better experience overall, even in simple tasks like in app performance or browsing the web.

To drive the point home, my Verizon LTE service is so good, if they offered an unlimited plan, I'd cancel my 30/30 fiber service at home.

By Reclaimer77 on 1/24/2012 6:24:15 PM , Rating: 2
Man I really envy you! I'm stuck on Sprints shitty ass WiMax data network where I live. It's god awful and as soon as my contract is up, I'm going Verizon LTE or bust.

By RU482 on 1/24/2012 11:04:08 PM , Rating: 2
wait a minute...isn't LTE (and later LTE-advanced) supposed to be the unifying standard for WWAN and/or "cellular" service?

By OCedHrt on 1/25/2012 8:37:33 AM , Rating: 2
HSPA upgrades do not solve the inherent latency often ~500ms+. LTE's latency are on par with your cable or DSL< 50m.

It's like comparing ISDN to DSL/cable.

By senecarr on 1/25/2012 4:10:00 PM , Rating: 3
You hate caps, and LTE? The caps are a business decision, they have nothing to do with LTE. LTE isn't just faster, it is more spectrum efficient, and the lack of spectrum and the cost to acquire is a big part of the decision to have caps. LTE has the potential to use less than half the spectrum of HSPA+.
Don't confuse the technology with the companies implementing it.

Campaign finance reform
By Ringold on 1/24/2012 2:04:15 PM , Rating: 5
Another week, another case of gross abuse in government, at all levels. Locally where I live, a city commissioner is about to be sentenced to jail for selling access to an undercover cop. My states governor has a murky business past. Then nationally, SOPA & crew has been in the news, now this.

Would capping donations to political campaigners and campaign groups to, say, $25 a year and forcing politicians to rely on retail politics, volunteers and maybe using newspapers to and local and national TV to host debates such a bad thing, or even unconstitutional? Surely there's a way to fix things while maintaining a balanced way for citizens to petition government. And, surely, it's about time for it to be an election issue.

RE: Campaign finance reform
By fishman on 1/24/2012 2:22:39 PM , Rating: 1
What is to stop someone from spending their own millions to run ads independent of any candidate? It would be near impossible to come up with something that wouldn't be unconstitutional.

RE: Campaign finance reform
By Ringold on 1/24/2012 2:57:44 PM , Rating: 2
That doesn't bug me so much. I think a lot of times it fails, and can paint them as buying an election. I think thats why Romney's not spending any personal money this campaign. There's only a handful of Americans that could afford a campaign like that waged in 2008.

Plus, if they spend their own coin, at least there's no strings attached, overt or otherwise.

I'd consider a constitutional amendment as a good idea, but radicals like Bernie Sanders are trying to co-op that route of attack and sneak in their Marxist agenda already, so that routes as perilous as any other.

RE: Campaign finance reform
By Alexvrb on 1/24/2012 10:15:29 PM , Rating: 1
No, I think what he's saying is... what's the stop such-and-such rich string-puller billionare from running ads for getting President Stupidface elected or re-elected? You'd have to ban ALL media (traditional and otherwise, especially newsmedia) and electronic communications to actually prevent this. So... yeah. Good luck with that.

RE: Campaign finance reform
By TSS on 1/25/2012 8:37:14 PM , Rating: 3
It's very easily fixable. Stop trying to fix everything with money when money is the problem. Or atleast, a big part of it.

Don't allow any donations. Give a set amount of campaign money to each candidate, with a max of 3 per party and a max of 15 parties. $2.2 million each, meaning it costs the tax payers $100 million (tops) each year for the presidential election. Throw in another $100 million to be devided under state and local campaigners, and another $100 mil for senate/house seats. And you have a completly level playing field money wise, and everything comes from the tax payers so they serve the tax payer. Nobody, and everybody at the same time. The tax payer. And $300 million each 4 years is nothing considering these cronies are costing you $1,6 trillion each year you don't have. And you'll have some variation too instead of just 2 corrupt idiots.

When that problem is fixed, you can start fixing the other problem. You. Don't give money, that doesn't work. If $25 is the limit the corperation will find 10000 people willing to donate 25 bucks, after which they call the politician and let them know who it's from. Your $25 won't matter either way, best to keep it yourself. Or institute a "electoral" tax, which by law cannot be increased unless it's to keep up with inflation. A buck a person and there's your $300 million.

If you really want to help the person you support, don't take the frickin easy way out, pay $25 and say "yay i did something". Just spread the word. Spend some effort convincing your friends that this guy is really the guy they should go for. Use logcal arguements, use facts, reasoning, point to the party program, offer a rebuttal to their critizims, and withstand them doing the same thing to you. Debate fairly, and accept it if the other has a good point. Accept that the person you support, might not be the right person to support.

That's all you need to do. If everybody did that (which automatically spreads the word so large advertising budgets are no longer needed. We have the internet people. I'm across an ocean and i'm debating your politics with you) Politics would be completly fair and safe. No idiot who would want to change it would ever get voted into office.

The money thing still goes for when their in office. Double what they get now, make it illigal for them to have any other income, as well as anybody their sleeping with. It's a family job, the president supports the nation and the 1st family supports the president. If that seems expensive of unfair just think of what not doing that has cost you already.

RE: Campaign finance reform
By Cerin218 on 1/29/2012 7:40:36 AM , Rating: 2
I've been saying this for years. What this would also do is prove how effective the candidate can be with a budget. Because if they can't be effective with the money they are given, how can they be effective with the money of an entire country which is why we are 15 TRILLION in debt. There hasn't been a budget created for the whole term of the current president.

This will NEVER happen though because our politicians get to keep any money they raise during a campaign. Run for some office, look good for a while, drop out, and strike it rich. The politicians make the rules and no politician is going to vote for things that prevent them from getting free money. Kind of like how our politicians are exempt from insider trading laws. So we put people in jail for insider trading, but for Congress it's how they get paid for influence. Bernie Madoff didn't do anything the government doesn't do on a daily basis. Yet he rots in jail. And our government gets away with it by calling it Social Security and Medicare.

Don't steal, the government hates competition.

By NellyFromMA on 1/24/2012 2:04:58 PM , Rating: 2
But the ambitious scheme hit a very big roadmap when GPS providers began to complain that that high power signals close to their frequency would cause interference.

Darn, I hate when I hit roadmaps! errr... Road bumps!

RE: Darn
By tayb on 1/24/2012 3:42:17 PM , Rating: 2
Not to mention the double that. Come on guys how can you expect us to take your opinions seriously with stuff like this? We rag on politicians for saying stupid things all the time but at least they don't have the benefit of editing before submitting.

RE: Darn
By Redsock on 1/25/2012 8:56:40 AM , Rating: 1
the reason that L2 "interferes" with GPS is that the GPS industry has been operating on spectrum that is licensed to L2!
the issue is that they (GPS industry) are getting away with operating on spectrum they don't control (turns out they control it politically), they have been doing that for years, they have had time to correct it and now they are blocking an entrepreneur from bringing wireless service to virtually the entire USA.

The GPS lobby is wrong but they are seemingly going to get away with being lazy about upgrading their technology. It seems that GPS never believed that the spectrum next door would ever be used so they just played in the vacant field and now the owner wants to build there and they are complaining.

RE: Darn
By Fritzr on 1/25/2012 11:12:34 PM , Rating: 3
GPS uses a band reserved for US Military GPS. The US military GPS system was later opened to degraded civilian usage. Later after civilian use of US Military GPS became extremely popular the degradation was removed and we have the civilian GPS that is now popular today. The US Military has upgraded their side of the system and enjoy much greater accuracy and reliability.

The frequency allocations for GPS have not changed with the exception of new bands being assigned for exclusive use of the military upgrades.

GPS predates the existence of Lightsquared as a company, so it is unlikely that GPS was assigned a frequency licensed to Lightsquared.

All radio transmissions have side-band signals. The strength of the side-bands depends on the filtering. The satellite transmissions that Lightsquared is licensed for produce side-band signals below the strength that the FCC license for the GPS bands requires users of the GPS bands to tolerate. The side-bands generated by the waiver proposed by Lightsquared produce interference in the GPS bands that is far greater than GPS band users are required to tolerate.

It is this excessive side-band interference that Lightsquared is trying to get permission to create. The GPS industry, FAA and the military designed their equipment to tolerate the interference that the FCC requires them to tolerate. The better ones (especially the military sets) can handle slightly higher levels of interference, but their FCC license says they do not have to.

The FAA is particularly upset because this usage could crash planes using localized terrestrial GPS. This system uses fixed mount terrestrial low power transmitters and is capable of landing a plane and parking it without pilot intervention unless something like a Lightsquared cellphone tower generates interference. In that case the plane using GPS landing control may try to level out below the runway...this is generally considered to be a non-optimal solution.

RE: Darn
By kattanna on 1/25/2012 10:32:03 AM , Rating: 2
Come on guys how can you expect us to take your opinions seriously with stuff like this?

its seems to be a general fail nowadays across a great many websites. it seems they are more worried about being first, then being correct or spending time proof reading their own stuff.

RE: Darn
By Samus on 1/25/2012 8:21:19 PM , Rating: 2
What evidence is there there was any bribery? This is less political than its sensationalized to be.

Lightsquared was granted use of a low-frequency spectrum close to that of GPS, but the FCC had no idea they were going to exceed every other satellites power envelope by a magnitude, causing interference with all nearby frequencies.

So it isn't the FCC's fault, it's LightSquared that didn't disclose they were using a highly experimental satellite emitting more radiation than any other satellite in history.

RE: Darn
By Fritzr on 1/25/2012 11:30:15 PM , Rating: 2
Their satellite ground stations and satellites were all in compliance with the license.

Lightsquared executives later came up with the brilliant idea of building a terrestrial cellphone network. This was actually a good plan except for one minor detail...

That minor detail is the frequency band they wanted to use. They filed a license waiver application for the purpose of modifying their satcom license to allow for medium and high power terrestrial point to point.

The current uproar is over FCC denial of the waiver due to proven interference with other FCC licenses, the most often cited being the licenses governing GPS.

*Lightsquared applied for an Earth to Orbit satcom license with hardware that complied with the restrictions on interference with neighboring frequencies.
*The license was approved. Lightsquared used this license for their satellite communications business.
*Lightsquared decided to expand their business into traditional cellphone and use their existing satcom license for cell towers. Since this use was not allowed under their original license a waiver was applied for.
*FCC tested the proposed Lightsquared cellphone system and found that it generated interference far in excess of what neighboring frequencies were required to tolerate--waiver denied.
*Lightsquared is now using the media to try and force FCC to revise the rules for toleration of interference in neighboring bands, including may wish them luck, but their success will destroy the GPS system as we know it.

Please correct the article
By apinkel on 1/24/2012 2:00:24 PM , Rating: 4
Lightsquared is NOT, I repeat NOT, building Sprint's LTE network.

Sprint is building their own LTE network using their own spectrum and their own towers.

Lightsquared partnered with sprint to use sprint's towers for their LTE deployment. It would have been a win for both if lightsquared actually had a snowballs chance in h e double hockey sticks of getting approval for their network.

RE: Please correct the article
By JasonMick on 1/24/2012 4:49:15 PM , Rating: 1
Lightsquared is NOT, I repeat NOT, building Sprint's LTE network.

Sprint is building their own LTE network using their own spectrum and their own towers.

Lightsquared partnered with sprint to use sprint's towers for their LTE deployment. It would have been a win for both if lightsquared actually had a snowballs chance in h e double hockey sticks of getting approval for their network.

Your comment is misleading.

From my older piece:
Under the agreement LightSquared will give Sprint $9B USD in cash for the infrastructure deployment, as well as "purchase credits" for LTE and satellite service valued at $4.5B USD.

Under the convoluted deal, which ties the two companies closely together, Sprint may be able to purchase extra LTE services from LightSquared, using the network it was paid to deploy. Other carriers may also purchase LightSquared services (perhaps AT&T or Verizon).

In other words LightSquared was paying Sprint's capital costs to deploy L2's LTE and was going to sell part of that LTE back to Sprint.

"partnered with sprint to use sprint's towers for their LTE deployment" -- fails to at all capture the fact that Sprint is DEPENDING on L2's payout to deploy its LTE.

Sprint hasn't built much LTE at all yet. It was relying on that $15B USD, again.

If this mess takes down L2's satellite LTE, it will likely interfere with the company's overall deployment plans, as it will be unable to fund the development (as it would be unable to sell as much final product). Sprint has given L2 a one month extension to sort its junk out, but if L2 doesn't do so, Sprint is going to be forced to soldier along without it.

You can say "oh, too bad, L2's loss, Sprint's gain." But that's not really true. Sprint is deeply cashed strapped right now, given its $7B USD for the iPhone and consistent quarterly losses. If L2 goes and with it the $15B USD payday, it could well be a factor contributing to an eventual Sprint bankruptcy.

At the very least it will significantly slow Sprint's deployment plans, as Sprint doesn't have much extra cash lying around to spend on infrastructure.

It will likely look to pony up with a rival like Inmarsat... but it remains to be seen how much $$ it can pull in from such a potential deal...

RE: Please correct the article
By apinkel on 1/24/2012 7:29:04 PM , Rating: 2
My comment is in no way misleading. You originally posted the article stating that LightSquared would be building Sprint's LTE network. They aren't. Looks like you've since updated the article... thanks, that's what I was looking for.

Conflict of interest?
By JediJeb on 1/24/2012 6:16:41 PM , Rating: 1
Indeed, Barack Obama was an early SkyTerra investor, putting $90,000 USD in the company

I know it is allowed, but why should the highest elected officials be allowed to hold stocks in companies they could possibly influence? Honestly to avoid any conflicts of interest all elected officials should be required to cash in their holdings and place the money into a secured trust of some type until they leave office to avoid problems where they could take advantage of their office. Any Senator or Representative can vote on legislation that would affect any business, so remove the temptation to vote to the advantage of ones investments.

It would not be unfair, if you really want to serve, then it would just be a price you would have to pay. If you value money over the responsibility of governing our nation then don't run for office, plain and simple.

RE: Conflict of interest?
By Black1969ta on 1/25/2012 12:31:46 AM , Rating: 2
Amen, but getting that passed would be like getting the Supreme court justices to ask to reduce their pay.

(No one outside the supreme court justices can reduce the pay of the justices.)

RE: Conflict of interest?
By Just Tom on 1/25/2012 7:06:13 AM , Rating: 4
Obama's investment was through a blind trust. Assuming everything was on the up and up he did not even know where his money was being invested.

Lobbying or Bribery?
By ICBM on 1/24/2012 4:28:54 PM , Rating: 2
Serious question, what is the difference?

As far as I can tell the only difference is with lobbying you go to jail.

RE: Lobbying or Bribery?
By ICBM on 1/24/2012 4:30:17 PM , Rating: 2
I meant lobbying doesn't get you thrown in jail.

RE: Lobbying or Bribery?
By ppardee on 1/24/2012 4:52:17 PM , Rating: 2
Lobbying SHOULDN'T involve money or perks. It does, and that's when it crosses the line for bribery. Some lobbyists have gone to jail because they crossed the line. The real money changes hands in the form of campaign contributions.

Missing Connections
By toyotabedzrock on 1/25/2012 4:35:11 PM , Rating: 3
But are their any emails to link the White House with the head of the FCC.

And lets not forget that the previous admin literally had a former CEO as the vice president which benefited his former employer greatly.

BTW, his stock in the company was sold before the 2011 approval.

Where's the bribery?
By voronwae on 1/25/2012 11:23:19 PM , Rating: 3

- Obama's blind trust manager buys Skyterra stock in 2005
- Obama finds out about it and orders it sold for a $13K loss
- Two of Skyterra's execs contribute 34K apiece to Obama's election campaign (not much by modern standards, unfortunately, especially when you consider what Adelson and the Koch Brothers are pumping in)
- Various people pull hard for Skyterra, hoping that LTE will break the sorry state of internet access, but the numbers don't lie and Skyterra finds itself in a dilemma
- Jason Mick writes a piece attempting to call that bribery

Pretty big reach, and not very good journalism, Jason.

Where's the bribery?
By voronwae on 1/25/2012 11:33:01 PM , Rating: 2

- Obama's blind trust manager buys Skyterra stock in 2005
- Obama finds out about it and orders it sold for a $13K loss
- Two of Skyterra's execs contribute 34K apiece to Obama's election campaign (not much by modern standards, unfortunately, especially when you consider what Adelson and the Koch Brothers are pumping in)
- Various people pull hard for Skyterra, hoping that LTE will break the sorry state of internet access, but the numbers don't lie and Skyterra finds itself in a dilemma
- Jason Mick writes a piece attempting to call that bribery

Pretty big reach, and not very good journalism, Jason.

No response to LightSquared
By danvdr on 1/29/2012 10:01:55 PM , Rating: 2
I don't see where the concerns that LightSquared brought up have been addressed. All the article said is that the attorney on the other side didn't like the way that LightSquared was going about this. He never answered LightSquared's complaints.

What do you expect?
By Rage187 on 1/25/2012 10:29:11 AM , Rating: 1
Obama is from Chicago. Chicago is known for dirty and corrupt politics. Anyone surprised this president is on the take? And like all Chicago politicians, they get caught so easy.

"Intel is investing heavily (think gazillions of dollars and bazillions of engineering man hours) in resources to create an Intel host controllers spec in order to speed time to market of the USB 3.0 technology." -- Intel blogger Nick Knupffer

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