Friday, September 23, 2011

GPS Interference

So, maybe I'm crazy but something doesn't seem right about this. This is the fact that LightSquared (a 4g lte wireless company) got a waiver from the FCC to interfere with GPS communications to promote its technology. Lightsquared is trying to create a 4g lte network in urban areas. The idea is to create a strong mobile broadband network in dense places. Sounds great except that the signal they use is very close to the band that GPS satellites. So close in fact that the FCC conducted a study and found that Lightsquared's signals caused significant interference with GPS signals.

GPS—Global Positioning Satellites—are a system of satellites built by DARPA and the Department of Defense to help the military more accurately pin their destinations. The satellites send signals to equipment on the ground that can direct, locate, and guide users. Many things can interfere with GPS signals (foliage, concrete, etc.) and reduce the strength of the signal. The weaker the signal is, the more inaccurate the position.

Lightsquared's technology would cause significant harm to GPS signals wherever it was installed. This translates directly to increased danger to industries that rely on this important tool. Emergency vehicles often rely on GPS and an interfered signal could mean the difference between life and death. The aviation industry depends on this important tool as a way of keeping planes on track; say goodbye to that over urban areas (only the most heavy air traffic areas). The military would be utterly paralyzed in most circumstances. In particular, during natural disasters GPS is one of the key tools used to rescue people.

I'm sure Lightsquared has a good reason for this. Except they don't. They are not disputing the FCC's findings, instead asking for a waiver. And they got it. How? It might have something to do with their promise of technologies to fix those problems in the future. Technologies that just don't exist, and won't for a while. But Lightsquared is building their network now. And for a time, we could all be in for some serious problems.

Today there were protesters outside of the Jackson Federal building. Too few protesters. How do we not know about our security getting sold off to the highest bidder?