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Planned LightSquared’s wireless network threatens GPS

Strong signals from the planned network could jam existing navigation systems

By CBR Staff Writer

Experts are warning that a new ultra-fast wireless internet network being built in the US could drown out GPS signals and interfere with everything from aircraft to police and civilian navigation devices.

The problem stems from a recent government decision to let a Virginia company called LightSquared build a nationwide broadband network using airwaves next to those used for GPS.

According to The Guardian, the background noise of the LightSquared signals, produced by as many as 40,000 transmitters, is also more powerful than the strength of GPS signals when they’re received at ground-level.

Manufacturers of GPS equipment warn that strong signals from the planned network could jam existing navigation systems.

The Federal Communications Commission originally gave the go-ahead for the ground-based network in a bid to bring the world wide wibble to places where normal broadband could not reach.

LightSquared and the FCC both insist the network can work alongside GPS systems. But makers of GPS devices claim that is rubbish and the weaker GPS signals could be wiped out.

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Both LightSquared and the FCC say further testing is needed to determine the true extent of any interference.

To fix the problem won’t be easy; one estimate says it could cost billions of dollars. And it isn’t clear who should have to pick up the tab to resolve the issue.

As a result, the government has promised, that it won’t let LightSquared launch the network until the possible interference with GPS systems can be resolved.

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