[federal times] Government and industry representatives urged Congress last week to halt the rollout of an ambitious commercial wireless broadband network that, they argue, would interfere with the Global Positioning System and pose risks to national security and public safety.
Officials from the Defense, Transportation and Homeland Security departments told lawmakers at the June 23 hearing that the broadband phone network, being built by LightSquared, will rely on radio spectrum close in proximity to spectrum used by the GPS system.
As a result, there is a high probability the broadband network would interrupt GPS signals that guide planes, ships and emergency first responders.
Among the critics is Rear Adm. Robert Day Jr., chief information officer for the Coast Guard.
"Our aviation assets rely heavily on GPS services ... and any impact in that accuracy is going to ... potentially put the crew in harm as well as delay possible rescues," he told lawmakers.
For its part, DoD relies heavily on GPS signals to steer precision-guided bombs, conduct research and rescue operations, and guide troops, said Teri Takai, the Defense Department's chief information officer. House lawmakers raised fears the broadband network will also interfere with the Federal Aviation Administration's planned Next Generation Air Transportation System, which will manage aviation traffic in the future using GPS signals instead of radar.
Because of the possibility of interference, LightSquared has developed a new plan for using lower-level radio spectrum and lower power levels that it claims will not interfere with GPS signals.
"The impact of LightSquared's revised plan should be independently and thoroughly tested to ensure the FCC [Federal Communications Commission] does not approve plans that would introduce unacceptable risks into the aviation system or leave the aviation GPS users with new and costly burdens," said Rep. Thomas Petri, R-Wis., chairman of the House subcommittee on aviation.
LightSquared officials said a planned July 1 report by a joint government-industry technical working group will show that its revised plan will not interfere with GPS.
Until the FCC and affected government agencies are satisfied, LightSquared will not use the spectrum near the GPS, but rather a lower block of spectrum, said Jeffrey Carlisle, executive vice president for regulatory affairs and public policy at LightSquared.
But the company isn't ruling out use of the upper-level spectrum in the distant future, if authorized by the FCC and affected agencies.
Officials seek to halt network they say would interfere with GPS