Posts Tagged ‘GPS’

Financially oriented prelude(s) to a post:

I am staggered at how easily the concepts of Democracy and the Rule of Law – two of the pillars of the modern world – have been brushed aside in the interests of political expediency.

And this as well:

Bond and Currency markets are now so rigged by policy makers that I have no meaningful insights to offer…

Now, on with the countdown!

From the annals of crony capitalism, rent-seeking, and regulatory capture it is revealed that the regulatory concerns regarding LightSquared, a world-class GPS signal-killer, appear to have been brushed aside in the interests of political and personal expediency.

Before Barack Obama became president, he was personally an investor in SkyTerra [the company that would become LightSquared]. [Philip] Falcone’s Harbinger Capital Partners [LightSquared’s financial backers] donated $50,000 to Obama’s inaugural committee on Jan. 20, 2009, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. At the time, Falcone was still looking for the FCC’s sign-off on his hedge fund’s desire to purchase a majority stake in SkyTerra . The George W. Bush administration had failed to green-light the deal.

According to White House visitor logs, Obama’s new FCC chairman, Julius Genachowski, a classmate of the president’s from Harvard Law School, met with White House Personnel Director Don Gips on Feb. 18, 2009. Gips’ personal financial disclosure forms show he had between $250,000 and $500,000 of his personal finances invested in SkyTerra via stock options. Gips bundled at least $500,000 in donations to Obama’s 2008 election campaign, and served on the advisory board of Obama’s White House transition team.


On the same day Goldberg [Henry Goldberg of Harbinger’s law firm, Goldberg, Godles, Weiner & Wright] sent that email to [FCC International Bureau Chief Howard] Griboff — July 24, 2009 — SkyTerra asked the FCC to allow it to delay the launch of a new satellite because there was a “potential delay in [its] delivery.” The FCC approved the request, but later denied a near-identical one for SkyTerra competitor GlobalStar based on “extenuating circumstances” in 2010. This appeared to be one in a long line of instances in which the FCC favored SkyTerra, the future LightSquared, over GlobalStar.


…later, Falcone and his wife each donated the maximum legally allowed — $30,400 each — to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.

Of course, largely ignored is the effect of the LightSquared network on GPS. To quote myself, should LightSquared be looking for a new logo, something like “The first full-fail 4G network” or “SkyJam”?


LightSquared is in full back-pedal on their GPS interference issue, which is the point of the title of this post. 

Backstory: when I was young and my heart was an open book, I used to enjoy Rocky and Bullwinkle.

Rocky and Bullwinkle normally (always?) closed their episodes with a teaser for the next session which often included multiple bad puns.  I’ve been told the pun is the lowest form of humor but since I’m not sure how humor is measured, I don’t really hold to such a position myself.

So this is a tribute post title (to Rocky and Bullwinkle) on a space topic (LightSquared and GPS).  And in further tribute, ponder if a new LightSquared slogan/naming convention needed like “The first full-fail 4G network” or “SkyJam.”

The LightSquared front-man, Phil Falcone, judged the subprime mortgage mess correctly and ended up making a fortune.  Can LightSquared do the same?

When Air Force Space Command’s Commander, General Willie Shelton testified to the Senate that LightSquared’s high-powered telecommunications signal would degrade, disrupt, and deny the GPS signal, there was plenty of disagreement.  Much of the disagreement was from LightSquared who had plowed plenty of investor money—about a billion dollars so far—into the effort and had lots to lose.

So now, the study is done and the finding confirms Shelton’s concern: LightSquared’s terrestrial signal will degrade, disrupt, and deny the GPS signal.  For LightSquared, it’s all over but the crying.

LightSquared started out with a largely space-based (and low-powered) scheme, but went more terrestrial for cost and performance reasons.  The fact their signal was adjacent to the GPS signal was…let’s just say that part of the architecture was not well thought through.  How so?

…aviation users could effectively experience a blackout of GPS capabilities, particularly around densely populated areas, where LightSquared ground stations are expected to be spaced 400 to 800 meters apart (snip)

At altitudes of 3,040 meters and below, aircraft could not rely on GPS for navigation over the nation’s capitol, most of Virginia and Maryland, and significant parts of Pennsylvania and New Jersey (snip)

…police cars could not acquire GPS signals within 182 meters of a LightSquared tower broadcasting at the maximum allowed power of 15 kilowatts (snip)

Signals to ambulances and fire trucks were nullified within 304 meters of a tower.

And now for the LightSquared crying part:

There are no feasible options for mitigating LightSquared interference…outfitting all GPS aviation receivers with special filters to ensure they do not pick up LightSquared signals would take between seven and 15 years and cost an unknown but extremely large sum…[also], the filters would reduce receiver performance. (snip)

…modifying LightSquare antenna patterns and exclusion zones or operating at lower power levels, are not good solutions because they would require more ground stations to be deployed, increasing the aggregate power output (snip)

The only remaining viable solution… [is] for LightSquared to acquire the rights to another part of the electromagnetic spectrum.

Who will rule the day here, GPS or LightSquared’s billion dollar baby?  Well, consider this:

According to the GPS Industry Council, a trade group, GPS represents a $22 billion investment by the federal government and billions of dollars more by end users to develop applications that serve defense, public safety and homeland security needs, as well as a range of industries.

So who’s the villain here?  LightSquared, who had to know GPS interference would be an issue?  The FCC who licensed the effort?  Or is it GPS, which has become all things to all peoples at all times, resulting in a perhaps dangerous dependency on its space-based signal?

GPS has its own set of problems but getting government and industry unaddicted to it can’t be blamed on its inherent usefulness.  Over to you, FCC and LightSquared…

A billion, with a “b,” times more powerful.  Think there will be some problems?  Yes, sometimes quantity has a quality all its own.

What will the solution be to the LightSquared GPS jamming issue?

Filters?  Costly and impractical.

Frequency change for LightSquared?  Perhaps.

Addressing GPS (and space warfare vulnerabilities in general): priceless.


Space Traffic Control: The Next Free Global Utility?

By Mark Stout

Note: this article originally appeared in Air University’s The Wright Stuff.

Depending how you look at it, the United States has been the world’s policeman somewhere between two (the dissolution of the Soviet Union) and seven (our entrance into World War II) decades.  Today, we are also humanity’s foremost space watcher and may even be on our way to serving as the world’s space traffic cop.  So… is this a good thing?


How secure is the ‘free global utility’?

From DoD Buzz:

Air Force Gen. William Shelton, head of Air Force Space Command, disclosed the Pentagon and FAA’s concerns at the Air Force Association winter conference today. Shelton told reporters that an unnamed GPS company had tested its gear and found that LightSquared’s towers built to generate a 4G wireless network completely jammed reception. The FCC recently granted a conditional license to the company to begin building its network using L-band spectrum, “right next to” the GPS signal, Shelton said. The conditional license requires that Light Squared prove it does not jam other signals. The company would operate only in the United States.

The technical problem is that the GPS signal is weak and diffuse as it comes to Earth from satellites and the new technology overwhelms it, the general said. For example, a plane flying near one of the thousands of towers Light Squared plans to build would lose the GPS signal guiding it within 12 miles of a company tower. Since the FAA plans to phase in a GPS-based air traffic control system, that could be disastrous for the nation’s civil aviation. Of course, military aircraft would face the same problems.

Intentional jamming is space warfare.  Unintentional jamming is signals fratricide.  Both are more dangerous and significant than space weapons…which don’t exist.

How GPS Can Improve Your Life

Posted: December 30, 2010 in Uncategorized