LightSquared promotes technical solutions as Republicans pile on

Tina Nguyen Contributor
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LightSquared announced Wednesday that it is partnering with Javad GNSS to create affordable filters capable of resolving GPS interference issues, calling it a “revolutionary” new development in their quest to build a wireless network.

That didn’t stop prominent Republicans from calling on the Federal Communications Comission to “resist political pressures” from the startup.

Wary of allegations that the company’s influence led the White House to push the company’s proposed wireless network on unwilling federal agencies, Iowa Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley and Wisconsin Republican Rep. Tom Petri asked FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski to “bear in mind the unique and ever expanding public benefit provided by GPS, and to take appropriate measures to protect it.”

Following the announcement of a House Oversight investigation into the company, Grassley and Petri wrote on behalf of the aviation industry, which relies on GPS for navigation.  However, LightSquared insists that its partnership with Javad, a high-precision manufacturer that supplies the National Geological Survey and NASA, has led to a timely solution to the GPS interference problem.

Though LightSquared owns a swath of spectrum capable of transmitting 4G internet and proposes to use it to create a nationwide internet network, the problem is that it sits too close to highly sensitive GPS frequencies — and, since the signal is too strong, often drowns it out.

The proposed filters from Javad would resolve the issue, according to the company.  Martin Harriman, an executive vice president at LightSquared, is “utterly convinced this works,” as he stated on a Wednesday conference call. “That’s the reason we’ve come out with this now.”

The proposal, however, contradicts a prominent four-star general’s statement that such a technical fix would cost billions of dollars and could take decades. General William Shelton, who had reportedly been pressured by the White House to make favorable statements about the LightSquared proposal, stood by this assertion at the Air Force Association’s trade show on Tuesday. (RELATED: Issa, Republicans investigate LightSquared donations)

Harriman, who finds his company inextricably tied to the Solyndra scandal, demurred when asked whether this technical fix would help the company overcome political concerns.  “I certainly don’t think it could harm our engineering chances,” he added.

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