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Tue, Oct 25, 2011

FAA Official Says LightSquared Stalling NextGen

Hickey: 'Most Intractable Problem I Have Been Involved With'

The proposal by LightSquared to place a nationwide wireless broadband service on frequencies adjacent to those used by millions of GPS receivers is causing the implementation of NextGen air traffic control to grind nearly to a halt, according to one highly-placed FAA official.

Speaking at the recent Air Traffic Control Association meeting in Washington, D.C., FAA deputy associate administrator for aviation safety John Hickey (pictured)  said that the proposal is having a "chilling effect" on the rollout of NextGen, as well as operators considering making a significant investment in ADS-B hardware which must be installed on airliners by 2020.

"(O)perators will wait several years down the road to see what happens," he said. "This is the most intractable problem I have been involved with in 31 years in aviation. Technology can solve this, but the real problem is time and cost."

The White House is keen to expand broadband coverage in the U.S., and ElectronicsWeekly.com reports that Hickey said that the FAA is working in good faith to find a solution that would allow both GPS and LightSquared's 4G system to coexist. But in a report "inadvertently" released earlier this year, the FAA said that deployment of LightSquared's network as planned would come at an estimated cost of 800 lives and $70 billion.

LightSquared insists that it has developed a filter for GPS units that could cost as little as $6, though independent testing has not confirmed that the solution actually works.

Hickey was adamant that the future of NextGen is at stake. "If we have in any way a compromise to the [GPS] system, we compromise the future of NextGen," he said.

FMI: www.faa.gov

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