Tired of hearing about LightSquared? Think it’s a bunch of panicking journalists hungry for something to write about? Listen, it usually takes a lot to get the hairs standing up on the back of my neck. On the LightSquared issue, they are at full attention.
The GPS receivers that would likely be affected the most aren’t military, automobile, aviation, mobile phones, etc. The GPS receivers that would be affected the most are the ones you use, the high-precision GPS receiver!
This means any receiver designed to produce accuracies at meter-level or better (submeter, decimeter, centimeter receivers). This means surveying, engineering, construction, bridge/dam/structure/seismic monitoring, GIS, precision agriculture, mining, utilities/telecom, transportation, environmental, disaster management, and all sorts of machine control across a vast number of industries.
Do the Math
LightSquared is planning to construct 40,000 ground-based transmitters broadcasting 1,500W each across the U.S. These are targeted at metropolitan areas with high-density population. The will pop-up like mobile phone towers. What do you think a map looks like with 40,000 LightSquared transmitters overlaid on the current infrastructure of CORS (1,500+ GPS receivers in the U.S.) and RTK networks (100+ consisting of several thousands of receivers in the U.S.)?
Do you use OPUS? Do you use CORS? Do you use an RTK network? Do you use WAAS corrections? Do you use OmniSTAR? Do you use StarFire? Do you operate your own high-precision base station (real-time or post-processing)? I do not know one high-precision user who does not use one of the aforementioned technologies in their GPS operations. All of the above technologies are in jeopardy.
I’m going to keep this simple. You, the high-precision GPS user, are likely going to be considered collateral damage.
The military is going to be accommodated in the name of national security. The aviation industry is going to be accommodated in the name of safety-of-life. The auto navigation industry is going to be accommodated because they are high-profile. The high-precision user is going to be thrown under the bus because we are the most difficult to accommodate (technically) and don’t have a high profile nor are perceived as significant enough to accommodate.
In other words, the high-precision user will be told to “deal with it.”
What Does “Deal with It” Mean?
It’s not clear at this point, but without any hardware modification, your receiver performance will likely be degraded (weakened or lost signal) in metropolitan areas, and to a lesser extent in rural areas. That totally depends on where LightSquared decides to place its towers. Very soon, with the final Working Group report due to the FCC (June 15), we will see how serious the interference will be.
GPS receiver manufacturers would likely offer some sort of hardware upgrade, if possible. You can bet that they won’t support upgrading older hardware and it’s possible some newer hardware won’t be retrofittable, so the upgrade turns into a “trade-in” with a hefty price tag. But beware that a hardware upgrade doesn’t mean it will solve the problem, but rather minimize it.
In order to have a chance of not being forgotten or dismissed as collateral damage, you need to jump loudly and with resolution to raise awareness with your congressperson and the FCC about the importance of GPS to your operations. If you’re an international user, write the FCC.
You can view the list of submissions made to the FCC by clicking here. Deere & Co. as well as Fugro and many others provided very clear and concise comments.
The Coalition to Save Our GPS has posted guidance on its website as to how to submit your comments. They are:
Voice your concerns directly to Congressional Representatives
To voice your concerns about GPS interference, you can send letters, emails, faxes, call or visit your Congressional representatives’ office in person to explain how you use GPS as a local business and what the impacts of interference would be to the local economy.
Contact Your Local Senator
Ask your Senator to support and co-sign the attached letter from Senators Roberts (R-KS) and Nelson (D-NE): explain how you use GPS in your state and what impact interference or any compromise of the GPS service would have on you and the local economy.
Write Your Representative
Please include: “Coalition to Save Our GPS and FCC File No. SAT-MOD-20101118-00239” in your correspondence.
Send your comments directly to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC)
Email the FCC: firstname.lastname@example.org
For your ready reference, below are the actions the Coalition is seeking from the FCC:
- The FCC must make clear, and the NTIA must ensure, that LightSquared’s license modification is contingent on the outcome of the mandated study unequivocally demonstrating that there is no interference to GPS. The study must be comprehensive, objective, and based on correct assumptions about existing GPS uses rather than theoretical possibilities. Given the substantial pre-existing investment in GPS systems and infrastructure, and the critical nature of GPS applications, the results of studies must conclusively demonstrate that there is no risk of interference. If there is conflicting evidence, doubts must be resolved against the LightSquared terrestrial system. The views of LightSquared, as an interested party, are entitled to no special weight in this process.
- The FCC should make clear that LightSquared and its investors are proceeding at their own risk in advance of the FCC’s assessment of the working group’s analysis. While this is the FCC’s established policy, the Commission’s International Bureau failed to make this explicit in its order.
- Resolution of interference has to be the obligation of LightSquared, not the extensive GPS user community of millions of citizens. LightSquared must bear the costs of preventing interference emanating from their devices, and if there is no way to prevent interference, it should not be permitted to operate. GPS users or providers should not have to bear any of the consequences of LightSquared’s actions.
- This is a matter of critical national interest. There must be a reasonable opportunity for public comment of at least 45 days on the report produced by the working group and further FCC actions on the LightSquared modification order should take place with the approval of a majority of the commissioners, not at the bureau level.
Lastly, following is the list of high-precision GPS receivers that the Working Group (consisting of US GPS Industry Council representatives and LightSquared representatives) have chosen to test:
Thanks, and see you next time.
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