GM’s OnStar Asks FCC for More Testing of Falcone’s LightSquared

General Motors Co. (GM) asked U.S. regulators for more testing of Philip Falcone’s LightSquared Inc. wireless network after early trials interfered with vehicle tracking through its OnStar system.

GM wants more testing of ways to mitigate LightSquared’s interference of OnStar’s global-positioning system that can track its 6 million subscribers’ vehicles in the event of crashes and other emergencies, the Detroit-based automaker said today in a letter to the Federal Communications Commission.

Makers and users of GPS devices from Deere & Co. (DE) to the Defense Department have said Reston, Virginia-based LightSquared may disrupt GPS signals used by mobile phones, aircraft and military equipment. The service, which proposes serving 260 million wireless devices using airwaves once reserved primarily for satellites, may disrupt marine navigation, and concerns have been raised that it may affect air traffic control, the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee said last week.

GM’s test data show that “harmful interference” of GPS devices by LightSquared “is no longer speculative, but rather is a serious issue that should be thoroughly investigated and resolved,” Thomas Jeffers, OnStar vice president for public policy, and Nikola Pudar, OnStar vice president for business development, said in the letter to FCC Secretary Marlene Dortch.

LightSquared signals disrupted GM’s OnStar and GPS devices used by the Defense Department in 46 tests, a Federal Aviation Administration official told a government advisory board last week. The tests of GPS receivers were conducted in laboratories and outdoors, Deane Bunce told the National Executive Committee for Space-Based Positioning, Navigation & Timing, known as PNT.

OnStar Tests

OnStar found evidence of LightSquared’s network disrupting its GPS system in April during testing at Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico, according to the letter.

“We’d love to be part of that testing and validation and we believe there is potential mitigation solutions specifically geared toward that bandwidth that’s being used out there,” Vijay Iyer, an OnStar spokesman, said today in a telephone interview.

GM’s OnStar, which provides subscribers with accident alerts, directions and vehicle diagnostics, said solutions include moving the LightSquared service to airwaves further from those used by GPS. Bunce, who co-chairs an engineering forum that advises PNT, said last week that it may take 7 to 15 years and “considerable expense” to change GPS receivers to accommodate LightSquared.

Falcone’s Backing

LightSquared, which is backed by Falcone’s Harbinger Capital Partners hedge fund, received a waiver from the FCC on Jan. 26 allowing the company to proceed while a working group studies possible interference. That panel, which includes GPS users, LightSquared executives and federal officials, is scheduled to deliver a final report by tomorrow.

The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee announced last week a June 23 joint hearing into LightSquared by two subcommittees. The network will operate over a network of 40,000 terrestrial towers.

“We have to work with the GPS community to make sure that we can live in an optimal way with other users of the spectrum,” Sanjiv Ahuja, chief executive officer of LightSquared, said in a “Bloomberg West” interview on June 10. “GPS is a very critical part of our own network in designing and building it. We’re absolutely confident we’ll build a solution that works with them.”

The LightSquared network is to be ready for commercial service by early 2012, and is to cover 100 million people by the end of next year, Jeff Carlisle, executive vice president of regulatory affairs for LightSquared, said in a June 1 conference call.

To contact the reporters on this story: Craig Trudell in Southfield, Michigan at ctrudell1@bloomberg.net; Todd Shields in Washington at tshields3@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jamie Butters at jbutters@bloomberg.net; Allan Holmes at aholmes25@bloomberg.net

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