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  The American Surveyor     

GPS Industry Created Smokescreen to Hide Its Failures Print E-mail
Written by Javad Ashjaee   
Saturday, 05 November 2011

I am an engineer, not a politician. That may be why I initially believed all the misinformation circulating about LightSquared. There was so much concern about LightSquared within the GPS community that I believed these fears were based on facts and hard science. Of course, that turned out not to be true. When I decided to look at LightSquared’s spectrum issues myself, I discovered that there was really no cause for alarm, only a need for problem solving.

In fact, my research and development team was able to mitigate the interference issues related to LightSquared’s network in just a few days. This was not a difficult task, my initial solution used off the shelf components. Since then, I have built a complete high precision receiver that is LightSquared compatible.

My ability to solve the interference issue in just a few days proves that the criticism of LightSquared is network is really just a smokescreen to cover a long-known fault in the design of high precision GPS devices. For years, the high precision GPS community has been designing and manufacturing devices that look in to spectrum licensed to LightSquared. GPS device makers want to wash their hands of the problem and lay all the blame on LightSquared. But they are at fault for selling products which depend on spectrum that is licensed to another company.

Now that LightSquared is ready to use its own spectrum, the GPS device makers have been caught encroaching on spectrum that they have no right to use. The problem is that the GPS device makers now have hundreds of thousands of devices out in the field that need to be recalled and they don’t want to pay for their own mistakes. That’s why they are seeking a political solution to what should be a purely technical problem.

But blocking LightSquared from moving forward with a nationwide broadband network won’t solve our industry’s long term problems. LightSquared may be the first, but it certainly won’t be the last company that will look for opportunities to exploit L-band spectrum for other uses.

With or without LightSquared, our spectrum environment is getting much more crowded. When President Clinton first authorized civilian use of the GPS constellation, there were just 44 million cell phones in the U.S. Now there are more than 300 million wireless devices in use and they generally consume much more network capacity than the first generation of voice-only phones. One smart phone uses 24 times more capacity on average than a regular cell phone. Tablets generate on average five times more data than a smart phone.

This rapid increase in network traffic is driving entrepreneurs and government officials to hunt for every slice of spectrum they can find. I promise that if LightSquared were to go away, there will soon be another company in its place, seeking to use that same spectrum.

At some point, the GPS industry is going to have to face up to the fact that it will no longer be able to use spectrum that is not assigned to them. Our industry should have prepared for this years ago and GPS companies know this. Cell phones don’t have an interference problem because of a five cent filter.

The forces arrayed against LightSquared are powerful. They have wrongly convinced a lot of people that GPS and LightSquared cannot coexist. If they can stop LightSquared, GPS high precision users will lose the opportunity to have a fast, reliable, nationwide and inexpensive RTK communication channel. But most important, if these anti-LightSquared forces succeed in blocking this new entrant in to the wireless market, consumers will suffer and the incentive to strive for innovations will get damaged by those who have a financial interest in old technologies that have failed to keep up with future needs.

I am proud to present our complete solutions at the PNT Advisory Board public meeting on November 9, where many high-level engineers from the GPS industry, academia and government will discuss this matter. I will be available to answer any questions, and encourage those who are interested in science more than politics to attend the discussion.

Dr. Javad Ashjaee is president and CEO of JAVAD GNSS Inc. based in San Jose, California.

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