Dish Network is one of the most popular satellite TV providers, but it has come under fire for causing interference to GPS signals. While the company was granted a provisional license by the FCC in 2009, the agency revoked that license after the GPS industry protested. In 2015, the company declared bankruptcy and came out with a new name and plan to resolve the interference issue. However, GPS industry protesters remain unconvinced.
LightSquared’s plan to deploy 40,000 earth-based transmitters
While the company plans to use its wireless network to compete against Dish Network’s satellite service, critics are worried that its plan could cause more problems than it solves. Despite plans to deploy 40,000 earth-based transmitters, many critics have questioned whether they will actually work. One way to test the new technology is to see whether it can interfere with GPS signals.
The FCC is currently accepting comments on LightSquared’s request to block the GPS system’s ability to transmit signals. The company’s plan to block the satellite network from providing accurate location data to consumers has been criticized by critics and industry observers alike. However, despite LightSquared’s promise to work with the FCC, many still have doubts.
While the satellite network uses a narrow band of spectrum to transmit signals, GPS receivers are sensitive and designed to pick up weak signals from space. A light-squared network could potentially interfere with the signals from GPS receivers, which are used on around 40% of planes. This is especially concerning because the backup systems rely on ground-based radio signals, which are less accurate and have coverage gaps. Even older private airplanes have no backup system and could easily be thrown off course due to interference.
But even though LightSquared has an authorization to use the L-band spectrum, the signals from its ground-based transmitters could interfere with GPS L1 signals. Even though LightSquared’s signals only cover a small percentage of the L-band spectrum, they could overwhelm the GPS devices used by millions of people. If this happens, they could be forced to upgrade their GPS units or simply accept the performance loss.
The company has a long history of regulation. It must stay within its own frequency band and power limits. It can’t remember penalizing Party A for poor receivers, but the GPS industry can point to principles of spectrum management. It’s important to protect safety-of-life applications. However, it’s unclear whether LightSquared’s plan will actually work.
The company’s new proposal states that it will delay incorporating upper 10 MHz frequencies into its terrestrial network, but that it will continue to explore all options to use terrestrial frequencies. Although the FCC could make a decision on the issue, it’s unclear how the agency will determine whether operation in this range will be prohibited or not. The question remains how to determine what level of interference is acceptable, who should make the decision, and when it will be made.
Earlier this year, LightSquared announced plans to deploy 40,000 earth-based transmitters across the United States to fight dish network gps interference. In addition to dish network gps interference, LightSquared is deploying satellite-based transmitters to provide the highest-quality satellite service. The new system uses a high-frequency radio signal to ensure that satellite signals can reach the desired location.
Ligado’s plan to reduce interference with GPS
As the company prepares to switch on part of its network as early as Sept. 30, the company is facing renewed calls for the FCC to block its plans to interfere with GPS. In a letter to Congress and U.S. President Joe Biden, 90 companies called on the FCC to overturn the company’s regulatory approval, saying that the L-band spectrum could interfere with GPS signals and hinder safe navigation.
While AOPA has opposed the proposal, they also support protecting GPS. They participated in a recent review of the plan by the RTCA Tactical Operations Committee. AOPA argued that the new regulations could disrupt aviation operations and safety. Moreover, the new regulation would require private companies to pay Ligado for the repairs of GPS equipment. Ultimately, the government and the private sector will decide whether to support the legislation or not.
The Pentagon has pushed back against the FCC’s decision to allow Ligado to repurpose satellite spectrum licenses for a new 5G network. Pentagon officials told Congress last week that the new terrestrial network could interfere with civilian and military GPS systems, endangering national security and threaten emergency response. This would pose an unacceptable risk to critical systems. The decision will be a test case for the FCC’s decision-making process.
Although the President has overtly supported Ligado’s case with the FCC, the Coalition of Aviation, Satellite Communications, and Weather Information Users filed a document with the FCC to prevent the proposal. Nevertheless, many observers believe that Ligado will ultimately be forced to file for bankruptcy and sell its spectrum rights to a telecom company. However, this is not the case. As the debate continues, it is important to note that the FCC is considering many options to protect public safety.
Legislation to prevent gps interference
Several Senators have introduced legislation aimed at preventing dish network gps interference. Senators Mike Rounds and Tammy Duckworth have co-sponsored the RETAIN GPS and Satellite Communications Act, which would require Ligado to cover the costs of repairing and replacing GPS receivers and receiver antennas. They claim that 99 percent of GPS receivers in the United States are used by the private sector, consumers, and state and local governments. They say that this legislation will protect the American consumer from losing access to GPS and cellular signals.
The 2020 order includes provisions to protect GPS devices from dish network gps interference. It also limits the power levels of base stations, requiring companies to respond to complaints of interference. However, it fails to address the costs and benefits to the government and the private sector. As a result, the legislation is unlikely to succeed in the short term. Nevertheless, it is important to note that Congress’s action in 2020 is only one piece of the puzzle. The federal government is expected to impose more requirements on Ligado if it is to receive any more contracts.
However, the new legislation would not only protect the government and the private sector from the dish network’s GPS interference, but it would also ensure that the federal government is compensated for costs related to construction and engineering. In addition, it would prevent dish networks from interfering with satellites. This legislation is a necessary step toward a unified world where we live. But it is far from clear how the new bill will affect us.
The FCC has sided with LightSquared and GPS makers in the past. It is unlikely to be successful without a negotiated solution, which LightSquared has requested. If the FCC does not reach an agreement, then the cost-sharing arrangements will be based on relative fault. There is no guarantee that it will, and in the meantime, LightSquared has requested a two-week extension.
The NPEF and Roberson and Associates studies have largely agreed on the importance of the new laws in limiting dish network gps interference. The NPEF and NASCTN studies, which were framed by Roberson and Associates, used subjective measures. Garmin and Deere agreed and said the alternative measures would not take into account the growing number of GPS receivers in the market.
In the meantime, LightSquared has applied for a waiver to provide its terrestrial-only service on L-band spectrum. That spectrum is adjacent to the GPS frequency band. The company has conducted a thorough investigation on possible interference and has voluntarily agreed to delay deployment of its L-band service until it can demonstrate that its new equipment will not interfere with GPS. Regardless of the outcome, the LightSquared’s license application will depend on demonstrating that the interference is not widespread.