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Deputy Secretary of Defense William Lynn III. DoD photo

GPS 'Stewards' DoD, DoT DepSecs Protest LightSquared Plan to FCC

porcari_125x150.jpgJohn Porcari, Dep. Secretary of Transportation. DoT photo
March 30, 2011

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In a letter to Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski, the second-ranking officials from the U.S. departments of defense (DoD) and transportation (DoT) have issued the strongest administration message yet regarding LightSquared’s proposal to build a network of high-powered terrestrial transmitters broadcasting near the GPS L1 and other GNSS frequencies.

Deputy Secretary of Defense William Lynn III and Deputy Secretary of Transportation John Porcari expressed “several concerns” about the LightSquared Working Group (WG) process in a letter sent last Friday (March 25), starting with a “lack of inclusiveness regarding input from federal stakeholders” in GPS. In January the FCC granted LightSquared a broad and exclusive waiver of the so-called ancillary terrestrial component (ATC) limits — in effect granting LightSquared and its corporate telecom customers the right to build a 4G cellular telephone network next door to the primary GNSS band.

In January the FCC granted LightSquared a broad and exclusive waiver of the so-called ancillary terrestrial component (ATC) limits, pending the outcome of the WG study of potential interference to GPS — in effect granting LightSquared and its corporate telecom customers the right to build a 4G cellular telephone network next door to the primary GNSS band. The working group submitted its first monthly report on March 15.

“In particular,” the officials wrote, “active engagement with DoD and DOT, the national stewards and global providers of the Global Positioning Satellite [sic] (GPS) service, is essential to protect this ubiquitous defense, transportation, and economic utility as the WG process proceeds.” Lynn and Porcari are co-chairs of the National Space-Based Positioning, Navigation, and Timing (PNT) Executive Committee, which oversees federal management and policy regarding the Global Positioning System and other PNT resources.

Lynn and Porcari also questioned the FCC’s “determination” in the agency’s February 25 letter to LightSquared setting out the WG process that consensus is not required in the working group’s recommendations. “DoD and DOT need to understand how differing conclusions and recommendations [from federal agencies, GPS private users, and manufacturers] developed during the WG process that could affect national security and transportation safety will be addressed,” they wrote.

Finally, the agencies “strongly advise” that a comprehensive study of all the potential interference to GPS is needed. “The new LightSquared business plan and the new FCC rules significantly expand the terrestrial transmission environment, increasing the potential for interference to GPS receivers,” the officials said. “An exchange of all pertinent technical and operational information is also crucial to ensure the effectiveness of interference mitigation solutions.”

The letter asked Genachowski to clarify “these matters at your earliest opportunity.”

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