Super-fast new smartphone network ‘may threaten GPS signals’

February 24th, 2011 - 2:38 pm ICT by ANI  

Washington, Feb 24 (ANI): Experts have expressed concerns that a new smartphone network in the US could threaten GPS signals.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is now investigating the LightSquared’s super-fast 4G network that could allegedly overpower and jam any GPS signals within several miles.

The super-fast ‘fourth generation’ networks carry data at speeds of up to 1 Gigabit per second. But it may take the high-flying GPS network to zero Gbps, potentially interfering with GPS signals for military and non-military users.

LightSquared’s signal is just next to the GPS signal on the broadband spectrum (GPS satellites transmit between 1559 and 1610 MHz, while LightSquared communicates with its satellites between 1525 and 1559 MHz).

Dale Hatfield, former chief of the FCC’s Office of Engineering and Technology, told that 911 response systems, many navigation systems, air traffic control towers and ship navigation all rely on GPS - and are at risk if there is signal interference.

But he said that until further testing was done, it was too early to tell whether LightSquared’s transmitters cause those issues.

“That’s the factual question here: Will there be interference?” said Hatfield, adding that ‘any time you have more transmitters there’s always at least a slight chance of interference’.

The Department of Defense has also shared the FCC’s concerns, telling that it is preparing to play a major role in assessing the impact of LightSquared’s network on GPS.

Many of the concerns sprout from a study submitted to the FCC in January by GPS manufacturer Garmin. Using two Garmin GPS receivers, the study attempted to replicate the transmission and reception of LightSquared’s technology, and it showed GPS reception was completely blocked.

Meanwhile LightSquared has said that it has always operated within limits stricter than what the FCC requires.

Jeff Carlisle, LightSquared’s vice president of regulatory affairs, said the company spent 9 million dollars to develop filters for their transmitters that essentially cut off any interference with GPS.

Garmin’s study didn’t use transmitters equipped with those special filters, he said. (ANI)

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