LightSquared calls foul over latest GPS interference testing

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LightSquared continues to cry foul in its ongoing attempt to secure governmental approval to use its 1.6 GHz spectrum assets to launch a mobile telecommunications service.

Throwing together a last-minute media call yesterday, LightSquared claims that a recent test of GPS devices by the Air Force Space Command on behalf of the space-based Positioning, Navigation, and Timing Executive Committee was “rigged by manufacturers of GPS receivers and government end users to produce bogus results, and revealed details of the testing to document its accusations.”

Among the claims, LightSquared noted that the testing was “shrouded in secrecy” as the GPS manufacturers “cherry-picked” the devices to be tested in secret and without any oversight or input from LightSquared. LightSquared noted during the call that some of the devices had been out of production for more than a decade while others were just modules that did not benefit from the filters that are applied to devices sold to consumers.

“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 company noted. “The units tested represent less than 1% 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.”

LightSquared also claimed that the testing standards did “not reflect reality” in that the “fail” threshold was set at 1 dB, while GPS devices are typically designed to withstand at least 8 dB of sensitivity to interference. Those conducting the test used the 1 dB standard based on a threshold cited by the International Telecommunications Union, which LightSquared countered by adding “that standard explicitly states that it does not apply to general purpose GPS receivers.”

In a press release, LightSquared “recommended” that reporters ask PNT EXCOM several questions in regards to the testing procedures, figuring that the media might have a better chance in fighting its battle.

Also during the call, LightSquared reiterated its stance that it had enough funding to continue operations for “several quarter,” though it refused to comment on any plans to raise additional funds. The company recently hired a new CFO with an extensive history in merger and acquisition activity following reports that the company’s fiscal backers – Harbinger Partners – could be running into funding concerns.

Further pressuring LightSquared’s plan is Sprint Nextel’s announcement that it was extending a potential network hosting agreement until the end of January.

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Dan Meyer

Editor-in-Chief, Telecom Software, Policy, Wireless Carriers
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Dan Meyer started at RCR Wireless News in 1999 covering wireless carriers and wireless technologies. As editor-in-chief, Dan oversees editorial direction, reports on news from the wireless industry, including telecom software, policy and wireless carriers, and provides opinion stories on topics of concern to the market such as his popular Friday column “Worst of the Week.”

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