FCC Stands Behind LightSquared Waiver Process

Witnesses Say Commission Acted Immediately on GPS Issues as soon as they were bought to its attention 9/21/2012 7:46 AM Eastern
The chiefs of the FCC's Office of Engineering and Technology and International Bureaus plan to tell Congress Friday that the process that resulted in the FCC's grant of a waiver to LightSquared was fact-based and transparent, that they stand behind the work of their engineers and technical experts, and that the GPS industry did not raise concerns about interference until 2010, eight years or so into a decade-long proceeding.

That is according to the joint testimony of OET head Julius Knapp and International Bureau chief Mindel De La Torre for a hearing Friday, Sept. 21, in the House Energy and Commerce Oversight subcommittee on the waiver process.

After being granted a conditional waiver by the FCC to use satellite spectrum for a planned wholesale 4G terrestrial mobile broadband net, the FCC suspended the waiver temporarily -- and is in the process of determining whether that should be permanent -- after GPS interference issues could not be resolved.

Knapp and De La Torre say the FCC was attracted by LightSquared's potential of "attracting new private investment, increasing competition, bringing additional broadband service to rural and hard-to-reach regions, and creating thousands of jobs," and that "during the decade preceding the November 2010 waiver request, the GPS industry had numerous opportunities...to inform the Commission of the receiver overload interference issue ultimately raised in 2010," but "did not do so." Had they raised any issue, they write, the FCC would have investigated it and tried to resolve it.

Even in 2010, they say, the GPS industry was not complaining about out-of-band emissions from LightSquared transmissions or authorized power levels, but instead their own receivers potentially picking up the signals from the adjacent band. That is the issue that eventually prompted the waiver to be suspended since some of those receivers were used by the military and for navigation and the GPS complaint was loud and long.

The FCC officials say the problem is with unfiltered or poorly filtered legacy GPS devices and the FCC continues to study the issue as it tries to free up more spectrum for flexible use. "The Commission staff is currently reviewing the extensive record developed in response to that Public Notice," they say. "At the current time, LightSquared cannot deploy its service commercially because of the unresolved receiver overload interference issue."

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