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LightSquared says GPS industry must pay $400M to fix 4G/GPS

updated 08:30 pm EDT, Wed October 12, 2011

Company blames industry for ignoring guidelines

Start-up wireless LTE provider LightSquared, which has been involved in a feud with the GPS industry over interference between GPS devices and planned 4G LTE cell networks, informed the industry that it would cost up to $400 million to buy equipment LightSquared has developed to eliminate the problem, CNet reports. Without the device, about half a percent of GPS receivers -- about half a million units -- will be disrupted when the LTE networks begin to go online.

The LTE provider says the fundamental problem is that GPS companies have been using more spectrum than they need or control, amounting to some "spectrum squatting" on presently-unused frequencies that will come into play as LightSquared and others built out their LTE cellular networks, often referred to as 4G. LightSquared's network, built in partnership with Sprint, will be built to supply wholesale LTE capacity to other companies such as the popular cellphone network providers.

GPS companies have complained that their systems, which control navigation systems, farming equipment and many other crucial infrastructure systems, are too valuable to be disrupted and have seen the attempt by LightSquared to reclaim its spectrum as technical blackmail. LightSquared has agreed to some concessions, including a commitment to spend $50 million to ensure that government GPS units are properly protected, and devising a plan to move the bulk of its LTE operations to a different part of its spectrum, removing the risk of disruption from most existing GPS devices.

The GPS companies now have a choice of paying LightSquared for its device, which will cost between $300 and $800 per GPS unit, to protect the existing equipment from disruption -- or pay to replace the units that tread on LightSquared's spectrum once the company gets government approval to begin its rollout. LightSquared Chief Marketing Officer Frank Boulben expressed confidence that the softening position of the GPS companies would eventually enable them to come to an agreement.

He added that final testing of the shift in spectrum for the LTE network should be completed by November. Once it has its LTE network underway, the company plans to team up with various partners to offer 4G LTE at rates below the current premium, which should allow for carriers to begin offering phones and tablets that can utilize 4G at lower rates in the near future. Over time, LTE devices should come down to rates comparable to current lower-end 3G devices, perhaps even with more reasonable rates for data services. [via CNet]

By Electronista Staff
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