Undoubtedly some of you radio artisans have been following the LightSquared spectrum fiasco. For those of you who haven’t been, in a nutshell LightSquared is a US company that is attempting to deploy a 4G mobile wireless network on 59 Mhz of real estate that’s right next to the GPS band. Their plans have been halted due to concerns about interference to GPS services, used by consumers, industry, and the military. Technically the problem is due not to LightSquared’s technology directly, but rather deficiencies or design limitations of millions of GPS receivers in use.
For a solution to this difficult interference issue, perhaps the FCC should look to a past interference situation, that of Broadband over Powerline, or BPL. Here are some ideas, some that came directly from BPL vendors and advocates or the FCC, and others just in the “spirit” of BPL:
Regulate it under Part 15. Part 15 states that a Part 15 service can’t interfere with licensed services. So, everyone should be happy, right? If someone experiences interference, like with BPL they can contact LightSquared and hopefully have the issue resolved in 6 to 36 months.
Declare no protection for mobile operations. Like mobile amateur radio operations and BPL interference, GPS users can just walk or drive away from LightSquared towers or cell phone users. Interference problem solved. Only stationary users of GPS should be able to file interference complaints. This would include people using GPS in their living rooms.
Create an online database of LightSquared towers and cell phone users. As with the BPL database, GPS users could query it to determine if they are experiencing interference from a LightSquared tower or device and determine where in the US they can relocate to avoid the interference.
Claim that interference to military GPS users really isn’t an issue. The military really only needs GPS when there’s a war going on. Most people in war zones aren’t making phone calls and LightSquared probably won’t be deploying towers in Iran, where our next war is likely to occur.
Point out that 4G wireless services are new technology and GPS is old. GPS development began in 1973, 39 years ago. Why are we still using this old, antiquated technology? 4G wireless is new, it creates jobs, and people can use maps instead of that old GPS.
There is always a simple solution to a complex problem. BPL was the no-brainer solution to the broadband crisis. The FCC just needs to dust off its BPL files and apply the same technical expertise and creativity that solved the BPL interference problem and made it the success it is today.