Air Force Leaders Applaud General at Center of LightSquared Controversy

9/22/2011
By Eric Beidel

The Air Force’s top brass is standing behind Space Command leader Gen. William Shelton, who recently told members of Congress that an Internet company's plans could wreak havoc with signals from the space-based navigation system.
 
“Courage manifests itself in many different ways,” Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz said Sept. 21 at the Air Force Association’s Air and Space Conference and Technology Exposition. He then led a stage full of three- and four-star generals in a salute to Shelton, who has been at the center of a controversy that pits the overall functionality of the Global Positioning System against a private company’s plan to establish a 4G network. LightSquared wants to position its wireless broadband network in spectrum space immediately adjacent to the GPS signal. The general said that there is no way that GPS and the company’s network can coexist.
 
LightSquared would have 40,000 towers across the country that broadcasting at a strength about 5 billion times that of GPS. Receivers, specifically the precise ones used by the military, cannot handle that level of interference, Shelton said at the conference, reiterating the position he staked out when recently called to testify before members of Congress on the matter.
 
While Shelton did not address the controversy directly, Republicans say that the general told them in a secret session that the White House tried to persuade him to change his planned testimony so that it was more favorable to LightSquared, which is being funded by billionaire Philip Falcone, a heavyweight donor to the Democratic Party.
 
But Shelton stuck to his guns, and did so each time he was asked about the issue this week at Air Force Association conference.
 
“To all of the testing that we’ve done, to all of the analysis that we’ve done, there is really no way for GPS and LightSquared to coexist for precision receivers [and] timing receivers,” Shelton said. The general said that the vast majority of cell phones and personal navigation devices probably wouldn’t be affected. The receivers that the military uses for precise location and targeting, however, would have their GPS signals jammed, he said. LightSquared officials have said that they can develop filters that would eliminate these interference issues, but Shelton said such solutions would take years and billions of dollars to establish.
“I suspect what will happen is that we’ll do some additional testing,” he said. “We’ll find out if LightSquared can really develop the filter they’re talking about and determine what the impacts will be on precision receivers.” He added that the only solution to the problem may be to have the Federal Communications Commission reassign the company to different spectrum.

Topics: Defense Department, Infotech

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