Bloomberg News

LightSquared Says Tests Finding Interference Are ‘Bogus’

January 20, 2012

(Updates with FCC comment in ninth paragraph.)

Jan. 18 (Bloomberg) -- Philip Falcone’s LightSquared Inc. said U.S. government tests showing the wireless service interferes with the global-positioning system were rigged to produce “bogus results.”

The tests conducted by the U.S. Air Force’s Space Command were performed in secrecy, and they focused on obsolete and niche market devices, LightSquared Executive Vice President Jeffrey Carlisle said in a conference call today.

“The testing just doesn’t reflect reality -- and it was probably never intended to,” Carlisle said. He asked for more tests. Recent testing “was rigged by manufacturers of GPS receivers and government end users to produce bogus results,” LightSquared said in a statement.

The Reston, Virginia-based company backed by Falcone’s Harbinger Capital Partners hedge fund needs U.S. clearance for its planned high-speed wireless service to as many as 260 million people.

GPS makers say LightSquared inappropriately plans to send powerful data signals on airwaves reserved mainly for faint emissions from satellites. They say LightSquared would disrupt navigation gear involving the world’s aircraft, boats, tractors and cars that are used in the U.S.

“LightSquared does not like the test results, so it is attacking the testers,” Jim Kirkland, general counsel to GPS maker Trimble Navigation Ltd., said in an e-mailed statement. “Test after test has shown that LightSquared’s ill-conceived plans do in fact cause widespread interference with GPS.”

FedEx, UPS Concern

Trimble is a member of the Coalition to Save Our GPS, a group formed to opposed LightSquared’s plans. The organization’s members include package shippers FedEx Corp. and United Parcel Service Inc., GPS-unit maker Garmin Ltd. and farm-gear maker Deere & Co.

LightSquared has said GPS makers should have planned to accommodate the company’s use of airwaves near those used by navigation devices.

U.S. officials said last week that LightSquared disrupts GPS receivers, and that there appear to be “no practical mitigations” to let it operate alongside GPS in the next few months or years.

No further testing is warranted after the unanimous findings of nine government agencies, the National Executive Committee for Space-Based Positioning, Navigation & Timing said in a Jan. 13 letter to the U.S. Commerce Department. The inter- agency body advises the government on GPS technology.

Recommendation Pending

The results are to help the Commerce Department form recommendations for the Federal Communications Commission, which is to decide whether LightSquared may begin commercial operations.

“The FCC will not lift the prohibition on LightSquared to begin commercial operations unless harmful interference issues are resolved,” Tammy Sun, a spokeswoman for the agency, said in an e-mailed statement. The FCC awaits the Commerce Department’s recommendation, Sun said.

Preliminary test results released last month showed that LightSquared disrupts an air-safety system that helps airliners avoid crashing into mountains and buildings.

Brie Sachse, a spokeswoman for the Federal Aviation Administration who’s authorized to speak about the test results, declined to comment.

Carlisle said LightSquared is advising Sprint Nextel Corp. of developments in the government review. Sprint, the third- largest U.S. wireless carrier, on Jan. 5 put a network-sharing partnership with LightSquared on hold.

“We’ll continue to look at alternatives with Sprint assuming this goes past the end of January,” Carlisle said.

LightSquared may need more money by April, Jonathan Chaplin, an analyst with Credit Suisse Group AG, said last month.

LightSquared has “enough money to last us several quarters,” Terry Neal, a spokesman for the company, said today.

--Editors: Steve Walsh, Michael Shepard

To contact the reporter on this story: Todd Shields in Washington at tshields3@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Shepard at mshepard7@bloomberg.net


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