LightSquared Needs More Testing for Interference, FCC Says

Philip Falcone’s LightSquared wireless service needs more testing to ensure it won’t cause harmful interference to global-positioning system operations, the Federal Communications Commission said.

Interference concerns persist after LightSquared changed plans to keep its signals away from those used by GPS, the agency said in an e-mailed notice today. LightSquared can’t commence operations until those concerns are resolved, the FCC said without proposing a deadline for the additional tests.

LightSquared envisions offering wholesale service through a network of 40,000 base stations using airwaves previously reserved mainly for satellites. Makers and users of GPS devices, which rely on satellite signals, say LightSquared’s network would disrupt navigation by planes, boats, tractors and automobiles.

LightSquared faced testing earlier this year, and said it would initially forgo using its airwaves nearest to GPS. It said the move would cut interference to more than 99 percent of GPS devices.

The change “showed significant improvement,” the FCC said today. The agency said concerns persist for some high-precision GPS applications used by national security and aviation operations. Testing should proceed “expeditiously,” the agency said.

NTIA Letter

“LightSquared is grateful that the FCC acknowledged today the significant improvement” resulting from the revised plan, Chris Stern, a Washington-based spokesman for LightSquared, said in an e-mail.

The National Telecommunications and Information Administration, which advises federal agencies on spectrum use, on Sept. 9 asked for more testing to conclude by Nov. 30.

The FCC’s action today is consistent with the NTIA’s letter, “establishing a path forward for LightSquared,” Stern said.

LightSquared is backed by Falcone’s Harbinger Capital Partners hedge fund, which has invested about $3 billion in the venture. The Reston, Virginia-based wireless company seeks to offer service to 260 million people by the end of 2015.

U.S. agencies told the House science committee on Sept. 8 that LightSquared’s signals may interfere with GPS devices used to track hurricanes, monitor volcanoes and help plan flood defenses. Earlier Deere & Co. (DE) said LightSquared may disrupt GPS- guided farm equipment, and General Motors Co. (GM) said its OnStar vehicle navigation system may be vulnerable.

LightSquared faces another hearing on Sept. 15, when a House Armed Services subcommittee is to take testimony from witnesses including Defense Department officials and FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski.

-- Editors: Michael Shepard, Allan Holmes

To contact the reporter on this story: Todd Shields in Washington at tshields3@bloomberg.net

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

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