Concerns Raised About GPS-Jamming Broadband Network
GAMA and AOPA are calling on the FCC to recall the conditional
waiver granted by the International Bureau on January 26, 2011 to
LightSquared Subsidiary Inc. (LightSquared), recall
LightSquared’s underlying Ancillary Terrestrial Component and
commence a rulemaking to ensure that future proposed service using
the Ancillary Terrestrial Component adequately protects Global
Positioning System (GPS) and that such use receives concurrence
from the FAA and Department of Defense.
The two associations, participants in the technical working
group through their representatives on the Program Management
Committee (“PMC”) of RTCA, Inc., stated in the joint
filing that LightSquared has “entirely failed” to
solve interference problems, which threaten the future of a
GPS-based air traffic system – and no technology exists to
provide a remedy.
"It is clear that LightSquared threatens the FAA’s
multi-billion dollar investment in the NextGen satellite-based air
transportation system and the thousands of jobs that will be
created as a result," said GAMA's President and CEO Pete Bunce.
"The safety of general aviation and the traveling public relies on
a secure and reliable GPS network. LightSquared’s revised
proposal fails to protect aviation use of GPS. It must be rejected
to allow the aviation industry to modernize and grow."
"The evidence is clear: LightSquared's proposal puts the entire
GPS system at risk," said AOPA President and CEO Craig L. Fuller.
"Study after study has shown that LightSquared's plan is simply
‘incompatible’ with GPS. At the same time, the
company's proposed solutions rely heavily on technology that
doesn't exist. That's why we are joining with GAMA to ask the FCC
to revoke LightSquared's waiver immediately, and to begin a
rulemaking process that will protect the integrity of the GPS
system into the future."
LightSquared, after the adverse test results emerged,
acknowledged the problems, but blamed the present conflict on past
GPS designs. The company publicized an offer of a six-month
“standstill” period -- while also insisting that
modification of existing and future GPS receivers to filter out
extraneous signals be part of the solution.
AOPA and GAMA characterized LightSquared’s counterproposal
as “extremely far-fetched in the aviation context.”
LightSquared “assumes that suitable filters will soon
become available. No evidence suggests that will be the
case. Absolutely no filters exist today that can reliably
protect GPS from LightSquared interference,” wrote Melissa
Rudinger, AOPA senior vice president, and Jens Hennig, GAMA vice
president of operations. The FAA’s own impact statement
concluded that “no realistic chance exists that a suitable
interference solution can be invented, qualified for aviation use,
and certified for installation across the fleet in less than ten to
fifteen years,” they said.
Given the threats to the GPS-based Next Generation Air
Transportation System (NextGen) from the LightSquared network
proposal, and technological hurdles to a solution, offering a
six-month standstill “is really no offer at all,” they
With LightSquared having “entirely failed” to show
that its operations are compatible with GPS despite “ample
time” for that demonstration, the associations said, the FCC
should withdraw its authorization and initiate a rulemaking process
to ensure that issues raised in the case are “fully reviewed
and approved by the FAA and the Department of Defense before such
proposals receive any type of conditional or permanent
authorization from the FCC.”
In the months since LightSquared obtained its conditional
waiver, opposition has grown across aviation and other industries
along with awareness of the risks posed by the high-powered network
for GPS. In May many elected officials, concerned about the impact
on aviation and other GPS users – such as agriculture –
had joined in calling on FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski to revisit
the network approval process. An FCC bureau conditionally approved
the network plan before technical study results were available, and
without review by the full FCC.
In his speech at Oshkosh, FAA administrator Babbitt got his
biggest round of applause when he said "we will protect GPS."