Industry Group Asks Congress to Protect GPS Network

Move to build 40,000 base stations to put 4G in the country could interfere with key directional signals farmers use.

Published on: Jun 24, 2011

In late February, the U.S. Federal Communications Commission provided LightSquared permission to start building out its highspeed wireless network that would be used by major carriers to provide added data speed in remote areas. Trouble is, the FCC initial approval was based on data provided by LightSquared and the frequency band the company is using is in the same bandwidth as satellite signals from the GPS network. However the ground-based signals are much stronger and could cause interference.

However, an industry coalition Save Our GPS got going with key players including Trimble, Agco, Caterpillar and a host of others including the Association of Equipment Manufacturers.

This week, LightSquared offered up a solution - after delaying a report on new studies looking at the interference issue - and the industry response has not been positive. The LightSquared solution would still require FCC approval along with other agency approval. The Save Our GPS initial response was that LightSquared was offering a "bizarre" solution to the issue. See LightSquared Move Baffles Industry for more detail on this issue.

Friday AEM issued a statement about the LightSquared situation calling on Congress, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and the FCC to "stop the threat in the U.S. to [GPS] posted by LightSquared."

The association notes the LightSquared plan would add "unnecessary burdens to the U.S. economy." Major industry players including Deere have also responded in kind to the issue, noting that the potential interference is a significant business threat. Farm Progress made an effort to contact LightSquared to discuss the issue, but has yet to receive a response.

AEM points out that a study just released by the Coalition to Save Our GPS reveals that the stakes in this issue are very high and very real for our struggling economy. The numbers are staggering: more than 3.3 million jobs depend on GPS technology and the direct economic cost to U.S. commercial GPS users and manufacturers could be $96 billion.

The association notes that one member company believes that the LightSquared plan could degrade most if not all GPS receivers as far as 22 miles from one of the LightSquared transmitters. "The harm to highly productive precision agricultural practices is clear. Farmer business plans depend on GPS information such as yield data, harvest weights, moisture data and other precision agriculture data," AEM notes.

The association reiterates it is not against expanding broadband services, but adds that "LightSquared should not be allowed to launch in the spectrum adjacent to GPS and jeopardize" GPS operations.