New 4G network could cause widespread GPS dead zones

Feb 23, 2011 by Lin Edwards report

(PhysOrg.com) -- If a plan to build new 4G mobile phone base stations in the US goes ahead, engineers say GPS satellite navigation systems will be seriously jammed and huge areas of the country will become GPS dead zones.

Virginia company LightSquared communicates with satellites using low-power signals in the frequency range 1525 to 1559 MHz, which is close to the frequency range uses (1559 to 1610 MHz). So far this has not caused interference problems but if the planned 40,000 new high-power base stations are built they would use stronger signals in the same frequency range.

LightSquared hopes to complete the 4G broadband network by 2015 at a cost of up to $8 billion. The network is expected to deliver mobile phone users download speeds of up to 10 megabits per second.

Engineers Scott Burgett and Bronson Hokuf with Garmin International, a satellite navigation systems manufacturing company in Olathe, Kansas, say the stronger signals will be disastrous, seriously limiting GPS reception, causing widespread GPS jamming and depriving vast areas of the US of GPS coverage.

The engineers carried out laboratory testing on a portable and a general (FAA)-certified aviation receiver. A Spirent GSS 6560 simulator representing the current configuration of 31 was used to simulate the GPS signals. The LightSquared transmission signal was simulated by a Rhode and Schwartz signal generator and amplified to produce the required signal strength.

The results were that the GPS began to experience interference when 5.8 km or closer to the simulated LightSquared transmitter and lost the fix altogether when 1.1 km away. Interference started at 22.1 km for the aviation receiver, and total loss of fix occurred at 9.0 km from the transmitter.

The US air force is also concerned about the interference. General William Shelton, head of the US Air Force Space Command, said at a recent Air Warfare Symposium in Orlando that if LightSquared’s network goes ahead and GPS systems are jammed we should “think about the impact.” He said he was hopeful a solution could be found but LightSquared had to prove they could operate without interfering with GPS.

LightSquared spokesman Jeff Carlisle said the base stations are not at fault, but the problem could arise because some GPS receivers may be able to “see into” the neighboring frequency at which LightSquared operates. He said the company has already spent $9 million on a series of filters to prevent its current signals from interfering with the weak GPS signals, and if a problem will exist with the new network only some highly sensitive GPS receivers will be affected.

LightSquared was given a provisional permit late last year by the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC), but the permit stipulated that the network should not cause interference with other signals.

Burgett and Hokuf forwarded their report to the FCC on January 19. LightSquared is now required to submit an initial plan for working with federal agencies and GPS companies to determine how to deal with interference. The plan is due at the FCC by February 25, and a final report is due on June 15.

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User comments : 7

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ab3a
4.2 / 5 (5) Feb 23, 2011
This is what happens when the lawyers of the Federal Communications Commission (who do not understand anything about how a radio works) make up fairyland spectrum policy. It has happened before. I guess we'll have to learn to use Magellan or Glonass. LORAN is mostly dead...
fuviss_co_uk
not rated yet Feb 23, 2011
4G and 10 megabits/s ? I thought that 4G(LTE) delivers speed near to 100Mbs/s and more...
When we will see trully 4G in the air and our houses ?
NameIsNotNick
not rated yet Feb 23, 2011
This is what happens when the lawyers of the Federal Communications Commission (who do not understand anything about how a radio works) make up fairyland spectrum policy. It has happened before. I guess we'll have to learn to use Magellan or Glonass. LORAN is mostly dead...

Some troll marked rated your comment 1. Must be another lawyer who doesn't understand that no amount of filtering on the transmitter can mitigate desense of any practical GPS receiver on an adjacent frequency.
cwu
not rated yet Feb 23, 2011
LightSquared CEO and engineers need to be the first in the air once their network rolls out. Let's see if they're willing to put _their_ lives on the line.
SmaryJerry
not rated yet Feb 23, 2011
Fuviss_co-_uk, the speed of any network is split among the users. They say LTE is 100 MB/s.. but thats with 1 user at that on 1 frequency range ni range of 1 cell tower. Once the user base grows its going to come down to how much spectrum they have and the number of users to get the speeds.
Graeme
not rated yet Feb 23, 2011
Well GLONAS uses 1602MHz smack bang in the middle of the new LTE band. It will be even less usable!
TheQuietMan
not rated yet Feb 24, 2011
Public interest vs Corporate interest...

Seen this one before, didn't like the winner then either.