The GPS industry has been saying for months that there is no solution to interference caused by GPS devices that "look in" to neighboring spectrum licensed to LightSquared. Nonetheless, in a matter of weeks three private sector companies have now announced inexpensive solutions that eliminate interference for the high precision devices in question. In fact, we announced another collaboration today with global device maker PCTEL which has developed an antenna that will allow existing high precision users to retrofit their GPS devices to make them compatible with LightSquared's network.
The GPS industry, led by Trimble -- a $5 billion company, with a direct financial stake in the outcome of this debate -- continues in desperation to politicize a complex technical matter where several engineering solutions have been developed. Today, those opposed to expanding wireless access for millions distributed alarming numbers based on an outdated plan to deliberately confuse reporters with scare tactics (note the number of caveats in their statement).
Our current proposal to move our spectrum further away from GPS's spectrum will cost LightSquared $100 million and solves the interference problem for mass consumer and industrial GPS devices. Additionally, the solutions currently under development are expected to get us to complete compatibility. LightSquared has also committed $50 million toward replacing/retrofitting government devices that experience interference. The interference issues were caused by the GPS industry not filtering their devices appropriately, and we call on them to fund their share of the solution for the remaining high precision devices through a standard recall.
The Top 5 Questions the GPS Industry Should Answer:
1) Isn’t it true that the so-called “non-biased” PNT Advisory Board, which advises the Pentagon, is represented by board members of GPS companies who have a financial stake in LightSquared not getting approval to proceed?
SEC filings show that PNT Chair Brad Parkinson sold $1.5 million worth of his Trimble stock within weeks of the FCC granting the waiver to LightSquared (see Trimble’s insider trading filings with the SEC). In sum, board members sold nearly $20 million worth of stock within three weeks of LightSquared being granted the FCC waiver -- three times the highest amount of stock board members and top managers had unloaded in any one month going back to at least January 2007. This demonstrates that Trimble insiders clearly viewed LightSquared as a financial threat to its commercial business. And that explains Trimble's motivation in leading the public relations and lobbying campaign against LightSquared, even as LightSquared has committed upward of $160 million solving a problem that is of the GPS industry's making. Clearly, Dr. Parkinson cannot objectively advise the Pentagon or any other government agency if he is obligated as a Trimble board member to protect the fiduciary interests of the company's shareholders.
2) Numerous annual reports and SEC filings from GPS manufacturers going back to 2001 acknowledge material harm to their business due to interference with neighboring spectrum. Why did you not prepare your devices with filters if you’ve known for ten years there would be interference problems caused by your devices looking into adjacent spectrum?
In a 2006 filing, Trimble, wrote: “Many of our products use other radio frequency bands, together with the GPS signal, to provide enhanced GPS capabilities, such as real-time kinematic precision.” As early as 2001, Trimble also wrote that “emissions from mobile satellite services and other equipment operating in adjacent frequency bands ... may materially and adversely affect the utility and reliability of our products.”
3) True or false? Did the GPS industry manufacture devices knowing there would be interference with neighboring spectrum because this enhanced their performance?
True. SEC documents dating back several years show that GPS makers were aware of the risks associated with using spectrum that was not licensed to them (see above). Although their warnings to investors were buried in their reports to the SEC, they did nothing to mitigate their own risk. Furthermore, in April 2011, the FCC reminded the GPS industry to be mindful of their spectrum neighbors: “In the case of GPS, we note that extensive terrestrial operations have been anticipated in the L-band for at least 8 years.”
4) Who funds the Coalition to Save Our GPS?
The Coalition is not set up as a 501(c)3, and therefore not subject to standard rules of transparency. Their outreach efforts do not follow lobbying regulations, and it is unclear which of the members listed on the Coalition’s website are the majority funders.
5) Did the GPS industry falsely claim that it would take billions of dollars and more than a decade to find a solution to this problem?
Yes. It took just a few weeks for several companies -- JAVAD GNSS, PCTEL and Partron America to come up with their solutions to the interference problem –engineering solutions that will undoubtedly benefit the industry with lower costs and more innovation.