Out in Front: The Fire Next Time

March 1, 2012  - By

By Alan Cameron

We have turned back the LightSquared effort to establish a threatening beachhead adjacent to GPS spectrum bands. Having expended many millions, we can now return to our business, secure in having demonstrated both our rights and our rightness.

No. We cannot afford to do that.

Radio spectrum is today’s natural resource, vital to current ventures and even more essential to future business and national growth of all kinds. It is far too valuable to be taken for granted, and far too vulnerable to be left protected simply by the Plan A recently executed.

We will see attempt upon attempt upon attempt to use closely neighboring frequencies in disturbing ways — and, I daresay, to dislodge GNSS from the bands it now holds, by redistributing, re-allocating, and/or redefining spectra.

Digging in deeper will not answer. It is questionable even now whether the numbers of GPS installed user base or the dollars they represent were sufficient to turn back the LightSquared initiative. It may have been, purely and simply, the Pentagon and the FAA.

At any rate, the millions of installed GPS users and billions of dollars in industry and infrastructure may soon be dwarfed by billions of potential users and gazillions in economic benefit that broadband or any other spectrum-driven enterprise may muster. The future is wide open, as they say. It moves fast.

Two courses of action show promise; there may be more.

  • Participate actively, pro-actively, even aggressively — and certainly with no time to waste — in the effort to define receiver standards. The NTIA and PNT EXCOM will devise “standards for the development and procurement of GPS receivers to support their various mission requirements.” NTIA recognized “the importance that receiver standards could play as part of a forward-looking model for spectrum management even beyond the immediate issue of GPS.”

Get on board, bring productive ideas, work them through the process as efficiently and cooperatively as possible. Then design new products accordingly. Regulatory agencies, national and international, will have little patience with broadened use of other bands, no matter how long high-precision receivers have been doing it. We have been put on notice.

  • Aid, encourage, design products for interoperable GNSS, not to mention modernized GPS, particularly L5. Seek touchpoints with Galileo, GLONASS, and Compass developers, operators, and manufacturers. The broader, more wide-laned the base, the more frequencies that users and equipment can draw on, the more stable will be their operations, and the less vulnerable to encroachment, interference, or downright exclusion.

Perhaps you have thought of other ways to ensure GNSS viability in a future of increasing demands for spectrum. I would love to hear them, and share them with our readers.

This article is tagged with , and posted in From the Magazine, Opinions

About the Author:

Alan Cameron is editor-in-chief and publisher of GPS World magazine, where he has worked since 2000. He also writes the monthly GNSS Design & Test e-Newsletter and the Wide Awake blog.

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