LightSquared has been no stranger to controversy over the years, but 2012 has gotten off to a decidedly rocky start for the company. In February, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) withdrew LightSquared's conditional waiver to use satellite airwaveseffectively throwing the latter's plans for its fourth-generation (4G) Long-Term-Evolution (LTE) network into limboon the grounds that LightSquared's network continued to interfere with Global Positioning System (GPS) signals. That decision was soon followed by the resignation of Chief Executive Officer Sanjiv Ahuja (who continues to serve as Chairman of the board of directors). With the company searching for a new CEO at press time, Chief Network Officer Doug Smith and Chief Financial Officer Marc Montagner have taken on the roles of interim Co-Chief Operating Officers. Philip Falcone, whose Harbinger Capital Partners hedge fund has invested billions of dollars into LightSquared, has also joined the board.
Now, two national public safety groupsthe Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials-International, Inc. (APCO) and the National Public Safety Telecommunications Council (NPSTC)have filed comments with the FCC, both of which concur with the agency's decision and declare that LightSquared's plans would interfere with critical safety-of-life uses of GPS.
In its filing, APCO notes that it had been "monitoring the LightSquared deployment plan with a concern that it could interfere with public safety and other critical GPS-related operations," specifically mentioning emergency communications and public safety operations.
APCO cites the National Telecommunications and Information Administration's (NTIA) conclusion that LightSquared's network will impact GPS services, and that no practical means currently exists for mitigating that interference. "In light of the NTIA letter and other information on the record, APCO supports the Commission's proposed actions," the agency says.
The NPSTC's filing "reaffirms the necessity to protect public safety reception and use of GPS signalstesting done to date confirms significant interference problems will occur under the LightSquared proposal. Accordingly, NPSTC concurs with the Commission's proposed action to vacate the previous Waiver Order and to modify LightSquared's license."
The NPSTC adds, "GPS is used for wireless 911 location, support of dispatch operations, mapping/response directions to responders, and synchronization of simulcast communications systems across the country. The nation cannot afford to risk interference that could debilitate the reception and/or accuracy of GPS signals used for public safety operations."
Falcone has indicated that LightSquared will move forward in an attempt to overcome its regulatory roadblock. Needless to say, however, the path ahead for the company is anything but clear.
Editor's Note: To read Editor-in-Chief Nancy Friedrich's thoughts on LightSquared from our July 2011 issue, visit http://www.mwrf.com/Articles/Index.cfm?ArticleID=23580.