FCC Seeks Comments on LightSquared GPS Declaration Request

U.S. regulators asked for public comments on LightSquared Inc.’s request for a finding that global-positioning system gear doesn’t merit legal protection from interference caused by the proposed wireless service.

LightSquared is “extremely pleased” with the U.S. Federal Communications Commission’s move today, Jeff Carlisle, executive vice president, said in an e-mailed statement.

The Reston, Virginia-based company has been stymied by arguments its system including 40,000 ground-based antennas will emit signals that disrupt GPS gear guiding the world’s boats, aircraft and tractors when they operate in the U.S.

LightSquared, backed by $3 billion from financier Philip Falcone’s Harbinger Capital Partners hedge fund, awaits final approval to begin commercial service as U.S. officials weigh test results showing interference to GPS gear.

Makers of GPS devices say LightSquared proposes an inappropriate use of its frequencies, which have been reserved mainly for faint emissions from satellites.

The FCC made its solicitation in a notice distributed by e-mail today. It asked for comments by Feb. 27, and responses by March 13.

LightSquared in a Dec. 20 petition to the FCC said GPS makers sell “unlicensed and poorly designed” receivers that improperly listen to LightSquared’s airwaves.

Congressional Directives

“This question has, for too long, been evaded by the GPS manufacturers,” Carlisle said.

Congressional directives bar the FCC from clearing LightSquared before questions of GPS interference are settled, Jim Kirkland, general counsel of navigation-gear maker Trimble Navigation Ltd., said in an e-mailed statement.

LightSquared’s Dec. 20 request is made up of “revisionist history and gross mischaracterization of prior FCC decisions,” Kirkland said. “LightSquared and its predecessors have never been allowed to interfere with GPS.”

Trimble, based in Sunnyvale, California, is part of the Coalition to Save Our GPS that was formed to oppose LightSquared’s plan. The group lists members including package shippers FedEx Corp. and United Parcel Service Inc., GPS-unit maker Garmin Ltd., Delta Air Lines Inc. and Southwest Airlines Co., and farm-equipment maker Deere & Co.

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