Why You Should Regret LightSquared's Setbacks

from the competition-is-good dept

LightSquared is a new wireless carrier that has been trying to launch a wholesale 4G network across the USA. Funded by private equity firm Harbinger Capital, it sought to re-purpose satellite communication frequencies to build a nationwide cellular-satellite hybrid network, and then re-sell the network capacity to other brands. In January 2011, the FCC, eager to foster new competitors in the mobile space, gave LightSquared the green light to launch using their spectrum with one provision - that their network equipment NOT interfere with GPS signals and devices. Well, over a year has come and gone, and despite incredible effort and wrangling, the independent testing keeps indicating that LightSquared's terrestrial towers are not compatible with GPS device use. As such, the FCC has basically rescinded LightSquared's request to launch service on their 1.5GHz L-Band spectrum.

Note that, while LightSquared DID knock out GPS devices, it was not LightSquared that transmitted on the GPS frequencies, but rather the GPS devices that sloppily "listen" to the adjacent LightSquared frequencies. The GPS chipsets were generally cheaply made with inadequate filtering. That said, who is at fault is irrelevant: it remains LightSquared's problem to solve if they want to launch their network. A long history of spectrum policy states that new entrants must not mess up the existing radio devices.

What we've lost here is the chance to have a truly innovative wireless carrier which would have stimulated competition, energized the vendor community, and provided a white-label network for MVNOs. LightSquared had, in fact, signed up dozens of partners who would offer LTE wireless services as cellular companies, CE makers, and store brands like Best Buy, for example, who could sell connectivity in a bundle with laptops. Maisie Ramsay over at Wireless Week explains how a vast community of over 30 technology vendors have also lost a valuable path to market.

What strikes me, as someone who works with wireless carriers (LightSquared included), is that we may lose one of the scrappiest players out there. And markets thrive when a scrappy player stirs up the pot. Hutchison Whampoa stirred up the UK markets when it launched 3G in 2003, Free is currently doing the same in France. In the USA, we have regional players like Metro PCS, but nothing at the national level. My role at the Telecom Council of Silicon Valley is right where innovators meet with the telcos, and it was gratifying to see the tornado of new ideas, vendors, and possibilities that came about with a new network. Without legacy systems nor legacy thinking, lots of great ideas are free to emerge.

For now, with LightSquared's options dwindling, we may have to have to look elsewhere for new competition and open creativity. The WiFi space is fairly promising, as the spread of hotspots continues to soar, and new versions (802.11ac) promise greater range and throughput. Chipsets are cheap, and billions of WiFi devices have been produced. Republic Wireless exemplifies the possibilities of leveraging WiFi in mobile phones to the limit. Lots of people are hoping that the "white spaces" frequencies in between TV channels will be offered up to a WiFi variant, which will mean low-frequency spectrum that penetrates walls and buildings much better than today's WiFi. I like what the US carriers have done with the (globally) early launch of LTE, but there's no doubt that with increased competition we'd have a more dynamic market.


Reader Comments (rss)

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    artp (profile), Feb 20th, 2012 @ 8:18pm

    Whose problem was it?

    As I understand it, there is a difference in signal strength between surface transmissions and satellite transmissions. When the spectrum was allocated, the only thing next to GPS was other satellite transmissions. With the spectrum change to surface transmissions, the GPS receiving devices are now looking at much stronger signals that they have to deal with as far as interference is concerned.

    So it isn't really that the GPS devices are listening in on other spectra, but the playing field has changed. If you would like your GPS devices to increase sharply in cost (for the extra filtering required for the spectrum change), then we can let Lightsquared go ahead and change the face of the spectrum.

    There have been many discussions of this on Groklaw, with some people weighing in who design these types of things, so I am fairly confident in their explanations.

     

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    A Guy (profile), Feb 20th, 2012 @ 8:25pm

    LightSquared only has themselves to blame for this set back. Anyone familiar with the frequency domain knows there is no such thing as a perfect filter and a signal 800 billion times more powerful cannot be effectively filtered from adjacent spectrum, absent an automobile sized filter.

    I do hope someone with appropriate spectrum can launch a similar service. It could be good for the market place.

     

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    Manabi (profile), Feb 20th, 2012 @ 8:32pm

    We should regret LightSquared's failure to grasp the laws of physics?

    Apparently you have no clue about the laws of physics. As has been pointed out numerous times by many, many people, LightSquared's failure was their own damn fault and what's more, they should have seen it coming.

    This isn't GPS receiver's faults. The band that LightSquared wanted to use is directly adjacent to the GPS bands. And it was licensed, properly, for satellite broadcast. That means very low power signals. The terrestrial signals LightSquared wanted to use are, literally, over 1,000 times as powerful. Let's see you make out a candle lit in front of a spotlight while staring into the spotlight and see how well you fare. It might be possible, but it's very, very difficult. Filters that can filter out that kind of power level are about the size of a scuba tank. I don't think people are going to be willing to lug their GPS receivers around on their backs because some idiots refuse to grasp the laws of physics.

    The only thing to regret here is that LightSquared is run by idiots who should have known better, were undoubtedly told multiple times by their own engineers that this was impossible, but they continued to forge ahead anyway. Any shareholders should sue them into oblivion. If they're privately held, their investors should raise holy hell with them. This wasn't an example of creativity, this was an example of idiocy trying to blame everyone else for their own failures.

     

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    Jay (profile), Feb 20th, 2012 @ 8:38pm

    Sad... No new innovations based on how legacy industries must be protected.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 20th, 2012 @ 8:41pm

    I was about to make similar comments as others here already made ...

    Slashdot has been following this story, it's worth visiting their threads on the subject and reading the comments there. LightSquared has not exactly been perfect in this whole debate here either.

     

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    antoine, Feb 20th, 2012 @ 8:50pm

    its lightsquared fault

    when GPS receivers were designed it was clear that the adjacent band is reserved for other satellite signals of similar strength and they took that into consideration when choosing the type of filter used. That is a standard design practice.
    On the other hand Lightsquared have purchased satellite spectrum because it is much cheaper than those dedicated to high powered transmissions. The managers gambled on there ability to persuade the FCC to change the classification and they lost the bet.

     

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    W Klink (profile), Feb 20th, 2012 @ 8:54pm

    Re: Whose problem was it?

    Yup, it seems that LS bought spectrum that was specifically licensed for satellite transmissions. That's WHY the spectrum was so cheap. They then ask the FCC if they can use it for terrestrial transmissions. Engineers don't think this is possible, but they offer to let LS prove them wrong. LS develops their tech and, lo and behold, the engineers were right and their tech does interfere.

    I mean, even your summary states the facts but adds some weird conclusion: "...green light to launch using their spectrum with one provision - that their network equipment NOT interfere with GPS signals and devices." Later, you say "...not compatible with GPS device use. As such, the FCC has basically rescinded LightSquared's request to launch service..."

    They didn't "rescind" the request, the grant was conditional (and they didn't pass the condition). This all sounds very familiar to me. I think the typical conversation goes like this: "No fair, you said I could have dessert!" "But you didn't eat your dinner."

    It's not about a "scrappy" player with some amazingly cheap and innovative solution. Their amazing innovation was buying a cheap spectrum. Their problem was that they didn't understand WHY the spectrum was cheap.

    We should regret their setbacks the same as we regret the setbacks of a developer who buys swampland in Florida.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 20th, 2012 @ 8:59pm

    Re: We should regret LightSquared's failure to grasp the laws of physics?

    Ding! You are correct.

    Lightsquared intended to put way too much signal power into a very closely adjacent band, effectively wiping out the GPS signals coming down (overpowering them). It's no different than tuning your FM radio off by 1 notch, and hearing ALMOST the station, but not quite. Powerful interference like that would make GPS units fail.

    It appears to be way more about poor technical planning than anything.

    As a side note to the author, Wi-Fi really isn't intended for long distance use. 802.11ac still won't have major increases in range (suggestions seem to be 10-20% over 802.11n), but will have a higher bit rate. However, to provide decent city coverage, as an example, you would pretty much need a wifi unit on every light pole in town. Those sorts of projects have proven to be not really economically feasible.

    There is a serious shortage of spectrum all over, Lightsquared tried to do something that isn't exactly correct, and now they are looking at a pretty significant failure.

     

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    Paul, Feb 20th, 2012 @ 9:07pm

    Put in your pipe and smoke it mate.

    This scheme was cooked up by a bunch of technically illiterate MBAs who relied on crony capitalism to get this far. The LAW since radio regulation began is the emitter is liable for interference, not the receiver. But MBA types are so clueless they just disregarded this issue on the strength they could buy a new law for themselves. Thank goodness the FCC told these idiots where to go..

    You CAN NOT put a multi-kilowatt ground based network in a band right next to a low powered hand-held mobile space-based system. If they had bothered to consult an engineer instead of a Capital hill lobiest, they might have found this out before blowing their investors money on a what was a stupid idea in teh first place...

    PS.. were these guys also involved in the Internet over power-lines BS??? Same kind of stupid MBA type idea!

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 20th, 2012 @ 9:08pm

    LightSquared failure

    The new Obama scandal is huge, but it’s also nice and simple.

    LightSquared is a satellite broadband company, based out of Virginia. It received heavy investments from a fund run by a big-money Democrat donor named Phillip Falcone, a billionaire who “became wealthy shorting subprime debt,” according to The Daily Beast.

    The company’s biggest investors, according to the Huffington Post, include Obama donor and current U.S. ambassador to South Africa Donald Gips, Obama friend and investment manager George Haywood… and Barack Obama himself, who was “an early investor and came to the presidency a firm believer in expanding broadband.”

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 20th, 2012 @ 9:18pm

    I get why they got rejected, and from a bureaucratic standpoint, it's fine. But honestly, I'd rather have cheap nation-wide neutral wireless Internet than a GPS system.

    Probably most people don't feel that way, unfortunately. If I had my way, GPS and TV would get their spectrum forceably moved to narrower, more distant blocks, and more frequencies devoted to 2-way networks.

     

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    PapaFox (profile), Feb 20th, 2012 @ 9:58pm

    Re: We should regret LightSquared's failure to grasp the laws of physics?

    The only thing to regret here is that LightSquared is run by idiots who should have known better, were undoubtedly told multiple times by their own engineers that this was impossible, but they continued to forge ahead anyway.

    LightSquared is run by really, really smart people who were/are intent on gaming the system and making a few billion dollars. They were allocated some satellite spectrum, which is cheap, and wanted to exploit a loophole which allowed them to repurpose it as terrestial which is very, very expensive. Essentially, LightSquared was engaged in spectrum arbitrage, where they could make a great deal of money by ripping off the US taxpayer. LightSquared management was completely uninterested in any tedious parts of reality which got in the way of making all that lovely money.

    John Hempton has an analysis of the games which Phil Falcone and LightSquared were playing.

     

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    Joe, Feb 20th, 2012 @ 10:02pm

    Limits ofsignal filtering

    The technical results of how lightsquared interferes are doubly telling. Especially when you view it from a designer of 15 to 20 years ago.

    A) There are fundamental limits on how well an analog filter can work. 15 to 20 years ago, these *analog* limits were much more limiting, compared to today's *digital* filters. B) There are also fundamental limits on how well one can receive a doppler shifted signal if you don't know what the shift is. Some modern devices can "cheat" by using a nationwide radio network (aka the cell phone network) to get up-to-the-minute status updates; 15 to 20 years ago this was unimaginable.

    Further, the devices that worked well in the lightsquared tests (the 25% they like to crow about working) are the devices that a) were relatively new cell-phone devices, which have high-performance digital filters with much better "roll-off" than even the best analog filters, and b) have access to "A-GPS" services, where information about ionospheric conditions and orbital updates are available via a secondary channel. That is, they were the devices least like the ones designed when GPS was new.

    In more detail:

    A) 15 years ago, the amount of digital signal processing necessary to emulate what is a low power couple-buck part in modern cell phone wasn't merely expensive, but flat out unavailable at anything remotely resembling a portable form factor, no matter the price. That's a simple fact of Moore's law. The high roll-off digital filters that modern cell-phones take for granted, which allow very sharp filtering between frequency bands, were not feasible at any reasonable price/form factor tradeoff even 10 years ago, much less 15 to 20 years ago, when the earliest GPS equipment was made. Analog filters, regardless of physical form factor, cannot achieve the same level of filtering. The older devices had no option but analog filters, and those filters are simply not capable of cutting out the level of interference LightSquared transmissions would incur. The filters which were deployed assumed that the neighboring frequencies would have moderate power transmissions from other satellites; if a 1980's era RF engineer had been asked to receive satellite-power signals with terrestrial-power transmissions on a neighboring frequency, said engineer would have claimed it was impossible, and questioned the sanity of putting satellite and terrestrial signals on adjacent frequency bands.

    B) GPS transmits a variety of signals. The most important one is the time-source signal, which allows location and timing. However, there is also secondary data, including the ephemeris and almanac data, which provide corrections to the orbits and updates to current ionospheric conditions. Having the ephemeris and almanac data available make it much simpler to "lock on" to the time-source signal. However, this secondary data is sent over a very low-bandwidth channel, which requires the same level of lock-on as the main time-source signal. In ideal conditions, it can take 12 minutes for this secondary data to be sent; in non-ideal conditions (i.e. with lightsquared's interference) it can be much longer. To improve GPS performance, cell phones typically receive the ephemeris and almanac data directly from the cell tower, rather than waiting for the low-bandwidth signal sent from the GPS constellation. Hence, cell phones can achieve a better GPS signal even in the face of interference, because the signal they need to get a signal (that is, the ephemeris & almanac data) is sent over the reliable cell-phone channel.

    Pure GPS receivers must get the ephemeris data from the GPS satellites, and hence are much more susceptible to interference. 15 to 20 years ago, nobody envisioned a nationwide radio network which could send the ephemeris data to any receiver.

    Simply put, Lightsquared's complaint about the design of currently-deployed GPS equipments sounds is bogus. "You should have been able to predict 20 years of Moore's law, fundamental improvements in the mathematics of digital filter design, the economics of a nationwide radio network with ephemeris data, and further, you should have based your designs around all of those predictions, even though the technology to do so wasn't available".

    Quit crying and buy a terrestrial licensed chunk of spectrum.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 20th, 2012 @ 10:09pm

    Re:

    But honestly, I'd rather have cheap nation-wide neutral wireless Internet than a GPS system.

    Yeah, well fuck you. Some of us actually use GPS to get real work done, like guiding missiles and flying airplanes. You browsing the Internet a bit faster is, quite frankly, not even in the same ballpark in terms of priority.

    OT to other comments: thank you, I'm glad I'm not the only one calling bullshit on this article.

    TL;DR: LightSquared is a bunch of money grubbing retards who should have known better, and now they're whining to anyone who will listen that they think everyone else should have to shoulder the cost of throwing out their perfectly good GPS receivers and buy new ones, all so LightSquared can privatize the commons. Fuck LightSquared, fuck their investors and fuck their apologists.

     

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    Jay (profile), Feb 20th, 2012 @ 10:16pm

    *sigh*

    What I find amazing about this article is how much everyone feels that the government is in the right here. It's quite telling that so many people feel that the government should tell us how to build a machine instead of allowing companies to figure it out for themselves and improve the commons.

    Last I checked, spectrum and radio signals shouldn't be bought in the first place. But we're free to allow the government to allocate spectrum for legacy industries instead of Lightsquared finding new uses and forcing others to make better products.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 20th, 2012 @ 10:38pm

    Re: *sigh*

    By and large I am a free market capitalist. I think most government established monopolies should be outright abolished (ie: government established taxi cab and cableco monopolies) and I think others should at least be severely reduced if not abolished (ie: Intellectual property laws and government established broadcasting monopolies).

    However, I do think that when it comes to things like GPS, temperature and weather broadcasting, time of day broadcasting, and emergency broadcasting and similar broadcasting, I don't mind allocating a few broadcasting spectra to these ends and having the government ensure they are not interfered with. Most of the spectra absolutely should be unlicensed with very very few limitations, but when it comes to a few public utilities and essentials I think exceptions should be made.

    I have yet to conclude how cell phone spectra should be allocated, I know that some of that is already unlicensed and it seems to work.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 20th, 2012 @ 10:39pm

    sigh, please learn some basics

    I love techdirt, so it's very disappointing to read an article like this that shows an embarrassing level of ignorance on a topic.

    I'm not an expert on signals, but I do have a degree in electrical and computer engineering and have taken 300 level college courses on systems and signals (both analog and digital).

    This entire saga is quite sad. Any engineering with a basic knowledge of how radios work would have laughed lightsquared out of the room right away.

    - Spectrum is not discrete, it is continous
    - Filtering is not some "magic" thing. There is a tradeoff between selectivity and sensitivity. More of one means less of the other. GPS signals are VERY weak (as in at or below the noise floor)... .which means receivers need to be very sensitive and as such can not be as selective. This is one of the big reasons why low power satcom frequencies are grouped together
    - Lightsquared wanted to broadcast signals BILLIONS (not a typo) of times stronger than GPS in adjacent bands. Imagine trying to have a conversation with someone while standing behind a running jet engine.
    - The frequencies licensed by Lightsquared were reserved for low power satcom and always have been. GPS devices were designed with this in mind. It's no different than building a house to comply with local zoning ordinances and standards.

    In the end I think a service like Lightsquared would be great... however appropriate spectrum needs to be acquired to support it.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 20th, 2012 @ 10:58pm

    Re: *sigh*

    Read up about "tragedy of the commons". Radio spectrum space is commons. If there is no government management, then whoever has the most powerful transmitter wins. That would kill any GPS-like service because no matter where they went in the radio spectrum, somebody else could say, "Ah, a usable frequency, I'll have that!" The FCC's call was correct, for good solid technical reasons, explained above, which were known to all players before any of this started. LightSquared is a bunch of crooks who thought they were going to get away with privatising the profits and socialising the losses. Well done, FCC, it is nice to see you guys doing your jobs.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 20th, 2012 @ 11:03pm

    Sounds Like they never should have been given the opportunity to try this seeing as how it's nigh on impossible. Surely the FCC knew this.

     

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    That Anonymous Coward (profile), Feb 20th, 2012 @ 11:04pm

    Good Idea, Bad Implementation....

    Well for all of the faults I hope we can all agree, the idea of a far reaching network not controlled by a legacy player reaching areas the legacy guys won't bother with would be a good thing? Yes no?

    Selling more bandwidth would hopefully create competition and competitive pricing.

    How they wanted to implement their plan looks seriously flawed, but IF they could get the proper sort of spectrum is it still a bad idea?

    I don't claim to understand all the details, but screwing with GPS looks like a hugely bad idea.
    Trying to get the rest of the world to change so you can carry on... not working for the **AA's so it should be seen as a bad idea.

    I think there might need to be discussion of of how the spectrum is being used now and how technology might be limited by a model that doles it out based on rules that haven't kept up with the times. Is there extra room out there that is sitting unused because some entity is holding onto a huge block "just in case" they might use it at some point...
    We have some spaces that need to remain clutter free, but I am sure we could find just as much not being used.

    I'd like to see more constructive things than trying to just shift blame around, well they filtered cheap, they did this, that guy did that... Bringing connectivity to the places the legacy players complain is not worth connecting (when we give them such good deals, terms, and subsidies) but it is worth spending money to keep them from helping themselves get connected.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 20th, 2012 @ 11:07pm

    extra filtering would make a GPS device more expensive
    to much depends upon GPS
    to bad for lightsquared.

     

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    Scootah, Feb 20th, 2012 @ 11:17pm

    The GPS devices in question were perfectly adequately filtered, assuming that the adjacent spectrums were used for purpose.

    LightSquared bought spectrum space on the cheap and then tried to use them for unintended purposes. That's like me buying a house in a suburban neighborhood, putting a night club in it, and when my neighbors complain about the noise, blaming the people who built their house for not adequately soundproofing.

    LightSquared aren't 'scrappy innovators' - they're rude jerks who found out that their plan to cheap and and cut corners at the expense of their neighbors isn't actually ok.

     

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    Derek Kerton (profile), Feb 20th, 2012 @ 11:37pm

    Re: Re: Whose problem was it?

    I don't dispute anything in the thread here by artp or Wilhelm Klink. I think you guys have added some background, but otherwise are just spinning around the words in a way that comes back to basically what I wrote.

    Klink, you are concerned that the FCC didn't "rescind". OK, forgive me, the term they used was "indefinitely suspend". They had given LS a waiver to run their terrestrial system on formerly spatial spectrum. They revoked that waiver. If "rescind" doesn't fit for you, then I've got a head full of hairs we can split when you have time.

    Artp, you are spot-on that running a terrestrial network in adjacent spectrum to a spatial network is ill-advised. You somewhat take the position that it is LS's "loud yelling" next door that is the problem, I somewhat take the position that it is GPS's active listening that is the problem. But, regardless, as I put in the article, it doesn't matter: it is LS's job to make it work, or they can't launch. "A long history of spectrum policy states that new entrants must not mess up the existing radio devices".

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 20th, 2012 @ 11:38pm

    Re: Re: *sigh*

    "Read up about "tragedy of the commons""

    That's some nonsense that the government mostly made up to justify self serving regulations. There is some truth to it, but outside of things like GPS and whatnot (as listed above), there is very little truth or evidence to the idea that all scarcely regulated broadcasting spectra will simply be overwhelmed by a very few players and that most others won't benefit from it much. The FCC did not start regulating broadcasting gradually because it didn't serve a public benefit, broadcasting regulation underwent a gradual transition towards corporate control exactly because regulating it all immediately would have caused too immediate a public harm for the public to tolerate. The government lies about this tragedy of the commons nonsense just like they lie about everything else, they must find some excuse to justify self serving laws.

     

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    Derek Kerton (profile), Feb 20th, 2012 @ 11:47pm

    Re: Re: Whose problem was it?

    Klink, On the subject of "scrappy", you point out that LS got cheap spectrum because it was "zoned" for spatial use, and got a waiver to use it terrestrially - basically a bargain in the spectrum world. True, but that is just a small part of why I would refer to LS as scrappy.

    More scrappy, for me, is what I have seen on the ground with what LS was doing to business models and technology for mobile telecoms. They were partnering with some very different technology partners. They were going all IP. The wholesale model would have put dozens of new MVNOs into our market - all with different pricing schemes and business models. ex: Best Buy might sell you a laptop with 1-yr connectivity bundled into the price. I saw startups who couldn't get the time of day from a major wireless carrier get rushed into the test labs at LS. That is precisely the kind of 'scrappy' that I wrote about in the article. As you and Artp noted, I somewhat glossed over the spectrum purchase part. What I wrote about, and what will be missed, is this venue of open and free thought, unlimited by any legacy.

     

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    Jay (profile), Feb 21st, 2012 @ 12:06am

    Re: Re: Re: *sigh*

    Amen. That's exactly what I was thinking about this.

    But just to drive another nail in this "tragedy" issue...

    First and foremost, spectrum is immediately returned to be used again. I'm aware that microwaves and wifi used the same spectrum but found a solution to the issue (microwaves went to a higher frequency of 5.8Ghz with a shorter range but more powerful waves) while 2.8 was wifi.

    What I would have liked is how the industry found solutions to this, to which we all benefit. We could have better broadband if not for the FCC selling out to AT&T a long time ago. All of the rules are utterly ridiculous from my standpoint. Basically, AT&T doesn't have to share their lines, so they are able to sit on forcing higher prices to people instead of making their own network better.

    I believe the same thing happened here. LightSquared could be a great competitor that would have gotten other companies to get them off their butts and innovate.

    Now, we have to wait for someone else to challenge the system.

     

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    Derek Kerton (profile), Feb 21st, 2012 @ 12:11am

    Re: Re: We should regret LightSquared's failure to grasp the laws of physics?

    RE: wifi, read my 2006 Techdirt article where I argue that Wi-Fi is a bad choice for blanket coverage of a town, or any area. Wi-Fi simply didn't, and still doesn't have the range to displace cellular: http://www.techdirt.com/blog/wireless/articles/20060612/175252.shtml

    That said, WiFi n provided a substantial jump in range, and ac will add more bandwidth to the range of n. But I am still not, nor likely ever will, argue that Wi-Fi can supplant cellular.

    But what I will argue (and did above) is that Wi-Fi connectivity, increasingly, can substitute for expensive cellular connectivity in numerous locations, and that all it takes is a smartphone with a wifi radio (common today) and some intelligent automatic switching inside the phone.

    The example of Republic Wireless is just such a case. They propose to do MOST of the connectivity over wifi, and only roam onto Sprint's network for those times when out of wifi coverage. THIS is where wifi can challenge cellular.

    Instead of thinking as our smartphones (as we do today) as cellular devices that can offload to wifi when possible, we could start to think of them as wifi devices that can roam onto cellular when needed. We would use fewer of the expensive cellular resources, and would ostensibly pay less.

    I have NEVER been a "Wi-Fi will offer blanket coverage" guy. Read the article linked above to see how far from that I am.

     

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    Derek Kerton (profile), Feb 21st, 2012 @ 12:29am

    Re: sigh, please learn some basics

    Ugh. So many comments here arguing the same (forgone) point. You guys keep pointing out how LS causes interference. OK, we all know that. That's why they got their waiver revoked.

    Now, you also argue that "they should have known". That's a lot more interesting point, and I'm sure the Harbinger investors will have questions about that.

    I'm not sure, however, that that was a foregone conclusion. LS had 20MHz to work with, and if they allocated half of that as a "shoulder band", could it have prevented interference? The answer to that, as we now know, is also no.

    My point, in the article, for noting that it is not LS that is broadcasting out of bounds, but instead GPS that is listening out of bounds, is mainly to correct all the news I have seen stating precisely the opposite. And I go on to say, "...who is at fault is irrelevant: it remains LightSquared's problem to solve." It is policy, and I would argue correct policy, that new spectrum uses should not blow existing industries built on adjacent spectrum out of the sky. So chillax, everyone. I'm wasn't diving into the political part of this anyway (and apparently it's quite heated), I mostly lament the loss of a new entrant that was positioned to shake up the cellular market.

    And I am not ignorant of the risky nature of what LS proposed, from an engineering point of view. I am just an advocate of letting them invest their own (private) money into seeing if they can make it work. It didn't, that's really too bad. Isn't it?

     

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  29.  
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    Derek Kerton (profile), Feb 21st, 2012 @ 12:33am

    Re: sigh, please learn some basics

    PS: "I'm not an expert on signals, but I do have a degree in electrical and computer engineering and have taken 300 level college courses on systems and signals (both analog and digital)."

    Is that sarcastic, or not? I'd say that pretty much qualifies you as an expert.

     

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    Derek Kerton (profile), Feb 21st, 2012 @ 12:40am

    Re:

    Once again, comments that focus on the part of the plan that (obviously) failed. We're in agreement that they could not play nice with the neighbors, and were thus shut down.

    That's not the part that was discussed as scrappy. The scrappy part was the way they were going to go to market, the wholesale model, the technologies they would implement, their openness to innovators and startups. That is what we just lost.

     

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  31.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 21st, 2012 @ 12:41am

    Re: Re: Re: *sigh*

    Right wing nutjob alert! The government does actually get some things right. Radio spectrum management is required to avoid a radio transmission free-for-all, which would be to the detriment of the public. Services like GPS are a massive benefit to the public. That benefit would be lost if LightSquared were allowed to have their way. There is only one radio spectrum and it has limited capacity. Human demand to use radio spectrum appears to be able to expand without limit. Unlimited demand and limited supply means that the price mechanism has to be used to control demand. Government regulation is inevitable, so it had best be done wisely. Kudos to FCC, good job, guys.

     

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    Derek Kerton (profile), Feb 21st, 2012 @ 12:47am

    Re:

    Nah, not me. I would REALLY love to see LS emerge on the market, but not at the expense of GPS. If they could have made it work, then great, but if not, then rescinding the waiver is correct.

    We'll need to look for other spectra, other technical solutions, and other entrants to add more competition to the market.

     

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  33.  
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    Derek Kerton (profile), Feb 21st, 2012 @ 12:51am

    Re: Limits ofsignal filtering

    Good comment. Thanks.

     

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  34.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 21st, 2012 @ 1:00am

    Re: Re:

    They can still be scrappy competitors, it is just that they will have to give up buying cheap bandwidth then vandalising their neighbours. Now they will have to compete with everybody else for expensive terrestrial bandwidth. We will see how scrappy and innovative they can manage to be when they have paid a fair price for their bandwidth. Now that the rort is off the table (provided they cannot find a crooked judge) then their scrappyness might or might not help them stay in business. It is a fairer test not to be giving them a gift.

    If scrappyness really is a good thing, then they can use it to make a profit. If they can succeed on their scrappy merits, well and good. If not, well maybe scrappyness wasn't as important as some people seem to think.

     

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    Mike Masnick (profile), Feb 21st, 2012 @ 1:48am

    Re: sigh, please learn some basics

    I love techdirt, so it's very disappointing to read an article like this that shows an embarrassing level of ignorance on a topic.

    I've read all the comments and no one seems to be pointing out "ignorance" in Derek's post. Instead, everyone focuses on how the whole plan was destined to failure. But Derek admits they failed (and, I mean, who couldn't?). The point is to note that it's too bad the failure of one possible path to real competition in the market. That is regrettable.

    But I don't see any "ignorance" on the part of Derek.

    In the end I think a service like Lightsquared would be great... however appropriate spectrum needs to be acquired to support it.

    This is basically the point Derek made. So again, it seems your claim of ignorance was misplaced.

     

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    Mike Masnick (profile), Feb 21st, 2012 @ 1:50am

    Re:

    Slashdot has been following this story, it's worth visiting their threads on the subject and reading the comments there. LightSquared has not exactly been perfect in this whole debate here either.

    I don't think Derek made any claim to that effect. He's just pointing out it's too bad that this effort, no matter how far fetched, is now dead, as it would be nice to have competition.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 21st, 2012 @ 3:53am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: *sigh*

    "Radio spectrum management is required to avoid a radio transmission free-for-all, which would be to the detriment of the public."

    There is little evidence for that. It's little different than the industry claiming hundreds of billions in losses due to piracy and little different than the government claiming that they are/were being transparent in all of these ACTA and other negotiations. They have to say something to justify their actions and when you can say anything you want to justify your self serving interests, you do.

    What certainly is a detriment to the public is what we have now, where purely self interested corporate/private entities have exclusive privileges to broadcast over what should be a communication channel regulated (or not regulated) to serve the public interest.

    "Services like GPS are a massive benefit to the public."

    That I agree with. I don't think that there should be absolutely no regulations, just that the regulations should be minimal and that they should be intended to serve the public interest. Our current regulations are mostly intended to serve private interests at public expense.

     

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    Mesonoxian Eve (profile), Feb 21st, 2012 @ 3:59am

    I haven't worked with signals since my days in the Navy, but I will have to admit I was watching LS' fervor with optimistic apprehension. While I knew it was going to be a challenge, my hope was they would have figured out the opposite of the issues presented in this discussion.

    Imagine, briefly, if LS had figured out a way to narrowly neighbored the band. Oh, to dream. Of course, I knew the reality just as everyone else, but still... with technology much more advanced than it was 20+ years ago, there was hope.

    Personally, I hope LS doesn't give up.

    Someone mentioned a good analogy by equating the issue of trying to have a conversation behind a running jet engine.

    Who ever said the conversation had to be spoken. Imagine if it were light.

    I believe this is where LS was trying to go. Perhaps technology just isn't there.

    As for the GPS issue of filtering, that's a debate within itself. I was never comfortable of the allowance GPS signals had because it was assumed no other device would share the same spectrum. Personally, this allowed the GPS industry to remain very lax over the years rather than adapting to limiting the interference it had nothing to worry about.

    At any rate, I concur with Derek's assessment this is, indeed, a loss to the challenges facing all spectrum as our insatiable appetite for more and faster continues.

     

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  39.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 21st, 2012 @ 3:59am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: *sigh*

    "I believe the same thing happened here. LightSquared could be a great competitor that would have gotten other companies to get them off their butts and innovate.

    Now, we have to wait for someone else to challenge the system."

    It almost looks like a bad setup. "We tried something different and it didn't work. Lets stick to our current bad laws". Some grandstanding stunt to convince the public that what we have now is the best based on a poor experiment of trying something that everyone even knew ahead of time won't work ;)

    Of course such a conspiracy stunt implies sophistication, effort, and merit, something the government-industrial complex doesn't have. Making self serving monopolistic decisions and laws, yes, planing elaborate conspiracies, no.

     

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    A Guy (profile), Feb 21st, 2012 @ 4:30am

    Re: Re: sigh, please learn some basics

    WOO HOO

    I'm an expert at something

     

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  41.  
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    Manabi (profile), Feb 21st, 2012 @ 4:52am

    Re: Re: Re: Whose problem was it?

    That is precisely the kind of 'scrappy' that I wrote about in the article. As you and Artp noted, I somewhat glossed over the spectrum purchase part. What I wrote about, and what will be missed, is this venue of open and free thought, unlimited by any legacy.
    That kind of thinking isn't very useful when you're and idiot in all the ways that count. Ignoring the laws of physics, passing up the opportunity to get different satellite bands (as I understand it, they passed up the chance to get some bandwidth from Dish networks that was in a range of frequencies where interference wouldn't have been an issue, but they passed on the chance and put all the eggs in the adjacent-to-GPS-band they already had. Now Dish is moving ahead with similar plans.), and when reality proved that you really can't do what they wanted without interference, they started whining like a spoiled toddler saying it's everyone else's fault. (It's not, as any Electronics Engineer and/or undergrad can tell you.)

    Maybe LS had a few creative ideas, but when it came to the really important stuff (business plans, ignoring the laws of physics) they blew it big-time. So their creativity counts for nothing. And they aren't going to be missed. What we actually need are creative business plans that are actually possible to implement. If your business plan violates the laws of physics it's a joke, not a plan.

     

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    Manabi (profile), Feb 21st, 2012 @ 5:02am

    Re: Re:

    Competition is nice, but LightSpeed's kind of the poster child for bad business plans (and decisions), so I'm not feeling any loss for them failing. I don't think they've helped matters any either, because they were so antagonistic towards GPS makers (and engineers, they were were trying to violate the laws of physics) they've set the whole business segment back a long ways. The next innovative company that comes along with a real, workable, business plan that would use satellite spectrum's going to have an uphill battle now.

    So in the end, they've actually made things worse, not better.

     

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    Manabi (profile), Feb 21st, 2012 @ 5:06am

    Re:

    From what I've read, LightSquared actually passed up on the chance to get some different satellite spectrum from Dish Networks a while back, spectrum that's not adjacent to GPS and wouldn't have had the same interference issues. So we could have had both, GPS and a nation-wide wireless Internet service, but LS was too dead-set on using their GPS-adjacent spectrum and (and insisting the laws of physics didn't apply to them) for that to happen.

    That's the real thing to regret: that LS's management was so incompetent.

     

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  44.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 21st, 2012 @ 5:07am

    Re: Re: sigh, please learn some basics

    "My point, in the article, for noting that it is not LS that is broadcasting out of bounds, but instead GPS that is listening out of bounds, is mainly to correct all the news I have seen stating precisely the opposite."

    They are both.

    You cannot avoid broadcasting out of band.

    You cannot avoid receiving out of band.

    Filters are not perfect, deal with it.

    (As I read on another thread at ArsTechnica, the only way to avoid getting out of band is if your signal is infinite in time, which is an impossibility. This probably has to do with the math behind the Fourier transform, but I am not strong enough at that math to explain why.)

    (Sorry if this double-posts, Techdirt has been acting up lately for me.)

     

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    Manabi (profile), Feb 21st, 2012 @ 5:22am

    Re: Re: sigh, please learn some basics

    It was a foregone conclusion, LS always was going to use the upper 20mhz as well, that was always in their plans, even after the testing started showing massive interference (like everyone predicted but LS). Their investors should be raising holy hell with LS, they got ripped off, pure and simple.

    Yes it's too bad they wasted a lot of money on a doomed project. But not something to regret unless it was your money. They really didn't help the market. Maybe they were planning to be open in some ways, but their antagonistic attitude towards the GPS people, and really engineers in general, have set the stage for the next innovative startup that comes along that wants to use some satellite spectrum that's not adjacent to GPS and actually has a sound business plan that won't violate the laws of physics to have an uphill battle thanks to LS.

    That's what we should be regretting: that LS's totally botched implementation has set back the market segment quite a bit. Not that they failed, that they failed in the way they did.

     

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    HIPAR, Feb 21st, 2012 @ 5:37am

    Lightsquared's Nemisis

    If Lightsquared operations are confined to the lower half of their spectrum, high precision GPS can be filtered and this has been demonstrated.

    Their nemesis is the installed base of aviation GPS. This equipment has been designed with filtering as required for meeting a specified electromagnetic interference environment. These standards have been in place since the 90's.

    A cursory analysis of Lightsquared's network power levels would have immediately raised a red compatibility flag for these receivers, even for the lower spectrum.

    The problem is these GPS receivers cannot be modified with extra filtering still required without triggering a lengthy certification process. Then, a logistical plan for replacing fielded equipment would be required.

    Unfortunately for Lightsquared, GPS devices and applications have evolved and become entrenched during the last ten years in a manner that's fundamentally incompatible with their network operations.

     

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    Chris-Mouse (profile), Feb 21st, 2012 @ 5:57am

    First off, I have to say kudos to the FCC for giving LightSquared the chance to try. The fact that the condition was put on the waiver in the first place is a good indication that the FCC didn't think it was possible to avoid interfering, but LS got the opportunity to prove the FCC engineers wrong. The fact that the technology failed to work as planned does not mean LS cannot build their network. They just have to find some other spectrum in which to do it.

    Kudos also to the FCC for not allowing that idea to trample all over an existing highly innovative industry. A two inch square module that costs under $50 can provide both location information to within a couple of metres, and a time stamp signal with atomic clock accuracy. What's more, this is available everywhere on the planet with a view of the sky, even when mobile. You've almost certainly seen the explosion of in-car navigation systems over the last few years, but how about some of the hidden uses? There's a huge explosion in infrastructure that makes use of the location information of the GPS units, or the time information. In many cases it's cheaper and easier to hang a GPS unit on a system than it is to add in a real time clock or a connection to a time server.

    Overall, which is more beneficial to society, the innovation in the GPS industry, or the increase in innovation in the communications industry? That I can't say, but right now, I'm leaning towards the GPS industry. Who knows, maybe in another few years someone else will come up with a technology that will let the GPS and a terrestrial communications network coexist on adjacent frequency bands.

     

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    Charlie, Feb 21st, 2012 @ 6:41am

    FCC Expertise?

    Don't give the FCC too much credit. I can find no evidence their engineers performed any technical studies before granting Lightsquared's waiver for issuing terrestrial only handsets. FCC claimed the waver to be a 'minor' license modification that didn't require a lengthy public comment period.

    FCC only recognized GPS compatibility issues after everyone found out what they were trying to sneak through during the 2010 Thanksgiving holiday. Grudgingly, FCC extended the public comment period.

    Then give thanks to Garmin engineers for conducting a actual test that FCC couldn't ignore. FCC was finally forced to make the waiver conditional.

    This fiasco was clearly politically motivated.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 21st, 2012 @ 6:54am

    Re: Re: *sigh*

    Also, another thing I wouldn't mind reserving spectra for are things like emergency cell phone calls.

    Though, with today's technology, spectra doesn't always have to be reserved and it can be prioritized. Tasks with higher priority could take precedence over tasks with lower priorities and devices using spectra for lower priority tasks could always yield to higher priority tasks and use the spectra when those higher priority tasks are not in use in the area.

     

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    bbandeveywheuh (profile), Feb 21st, 2012 @ 7:45am

    LightSquared

    The problem was the FCC put this thing on the fast track without conducting engineering studies first, otherwise we wouldn't be having this conversation.

    The writer laments that LightSquared won't be a much-needed competitor to the entrenched wireless operators and on that he is right. However, Charlie Ergen, if I am not mistaken, plans to put into play a network very similar to the planned LightSquared network, the big difference is that Ergen has 700 MHz spectrum that he can pair with his satellite spectrum.

    If LightSquared had been smart they would have pushed for deregulation of the TV band, that same spectrum now slated for auction. They could have leased excess spectrum from broadcasters and had a two-way network. Now, the FCC will go through five years of court challenges before realizing that the National Broadband Plan is a bust and that auctions aren't going to work, mainly due to extreme spectrum congestion along the Eastern Seaboard states areas. Years in the future we will still be having the same conversation, while all it would have taken is deregulation. TV broadcasters can put into effect a broadcast overlay scheme, which would fit seamlessly with existing wireless networks, alleviating the network congestion caused by video consumption via iPhones. This plan would be quicker, better, cheaper and allow consumers to not have to worry about data usage plans...just sayin'.

     

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    DCX2, Feb 21st, 2012 @ 8:23am

    Re: *sigh*

    I disagree entirely.

    Radio frequency spectrum is definitely something that the government should be regulating. Do you really want some snot-nosed kid trying to build a GPS jammer or a cell phone jammer to mess with his neighbor? One of these days that jammer would stop someone's 911 call.

    GPS owes its very existence to such regulations. If not for the FCC banning terrestrial transmissions on the bands adjacent to GPS, it never would have happened.

    The government isn't telling anyone how to build a machine. They're just regulating what that machine is allowed to radiate into the spectrum. The developer is free to build their device any way they see fit, as long as it obeys the regulations that are meant to protect users. Don't think for a second that private enterprise would shit all over the spectrum if they could make a quick buck.

     

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    JeffR, Feb 21st, 2012 @ 8:41am

    Re: Re: sigh, please learn some basics

    Derek did argue:

    Note that, while LightSquared DID knock out GPS devices, it was not LightSquared that transmitted on the GPS frequencies, but rather the GPS devices that sloppily "listen" to the adjacent LightSquared frequencies.

    Arguments of this type are ignorant of the physics and history involved and do not in my opinion live up to the high quality standards that you have set and met for Techdirt.

     

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    Derek Kerton (profile), Feb 21st, 2012 @ 9:12am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Whose problem was it?

    Sure, but CDMA was widely know to be impossible through the 80s and early 90s, which is why almost all the cellular carriers in the world opted for the less spectrally efficient Time Divisioning TDMA.

    If you know your radio history, you'll know that Qualcomm pulled it off shortly thereafter.

    You guys arguing that it was stupid to even try might miss out on some great innovations:

    - for some time, it was thought impossible to break the sound barrier
    - UWB technologies can communicate right over (under) existing analog technologies without interfering
    - Spread spectrum technologies allow conflicting wireless signals to co-exist

    So, even if it was unlikely, it seems like it's awfully conceited to say that it could never work, and should absolutely not be attempted. What did the US public lose here? Could we have gained something? Did we take any risk in this brief, 1 year experiment?

    If a company like LS thinks they can do something, because modern technology enables it...and they are willing to risk their own PRIVATE money on testing it out, well then I'm all for that test. If it works, bully for them. If it doesn't, it's up to them to try something else.

     

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    Derek Kerton (profile), Feb 21st, 2012 @ 9:24am

    Re: Re: Re: sigh, please learn some basics

    No, they are not ignorant of the physics.

    In a similar way that Analog TV broadcasts are a waste of spectrum, because they are using 1940s technology which is currently seen as inefficient, the GPS industry is using 1980s technology, which is analog and built with certain assumptions about what kind of precision would be needed in the radios.

    Those 1980s assumptions are now stale dated. Now, hear me clearly: I'm not saying that the GPS sector should update all their equipment (in fact, I say the contrary in the article). But I do say that they sloppily listen to the adjacent frequencies. That is what it is, and LS must deal with that reality.

     

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    Derek Kerton (profile), Feb 21st, 2012 @ 9:27am

    Re:

    Because we shouldn't try things that are hard?

    Silly.

    We shouldn't approve, go blindly full steam ahead, or just launch things that are "nigh on impossible". But it seems like a really good idea to let people attack the problem in a conditional trial.

    When Kennedy said we'd set foot on the moon within the 60's, it was nigh on impossible.

     

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    JeffR, Feb 21st, 2012 @ 9:29am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: sigh, please learn some basics

    The problem isn't that the GPS receivers are hearing the separate frequencies, it's that when they were designed the power limits on those adjacent frequencies were limited to many orders of magnitude less than what LightSquared wants to use.

    Changing the rules of the game and then complaining that the deployed devices are "sloppily" listening to a conversations that's FAR louder than the laws of physics allow you to effectively filter out is not a valid argument.

    You should be ashamed for trying to use it here.

     

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  57.  
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    Derek Kerton (profile), Feb 21st, 2012 @ 9:35am

    Re: Re: Re:

    There seems to be a lot of overall anger with LS's purchase of spectrum on the cheap. But someone needs to explain to me all the ways we can get more competition in the US without an easier path to market than bidding at auction against the deep pocketws at AT&T and Verizon.

    Even when other players win spectrum at auction, like the cable companies, it often ends up getting re-sold to the biggest carriers, who simply have a better ability to leverage and monetize the spectrum.

    Sure LS got spectrum on the cheap, but it wasn't exactly beach-front property, was it? It came encumbered with a sensitive neighbor, and if you aggravated them, you got shut down. That's a lot of risk, thus the spectrum is rightly low-priced.

    And, so long as we're being angry with LS getting this risky spectrum for a low price, why not funnel some angst at all the TV stations, broadcasters, etc. who got loads of free spectrum for TV decades ago, and who have been monetizing it ever since. Or the last-mile service providers who got free access to trench our towns and nation? Or the railways who were given so much land? There is a long history of giving away public real estate to build national networks because of the benefit those networks might impart. Spread your anger around.

     

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    Derek Kerton (profile), Feb 21st, 2012 @ 9:50am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: sigh, please learn some basics

    Jeff,

    I'm not LightSquared. I didn't change the rules of anything. I just wish their plan had worked.

    And you're saying that GPS used weak filtering because of (what we agree were) good assumption does not mean that it is not weak filtering.

    Geez. Nowhere do I say that GPS should ever have been done differently. Under the circumstances and time that it was built, it's a freaking miracle. It's great technology, uber useful, and I don't want it to go away. As it is, it takes priority over LS.

    But it does receive interference from adjacent spectrum despite the fact that technology exists to prevent that. Is that so hard to admit?

    Should I be ashamed of stating that fact? Some people in the GPS community are obviously so damned mad at LS that they don't even want to concede that water is wet.

     

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    DCX2, Feb 21st, 2012 @ 10:04am

    I take offense to this

    it was not LightSquared that transmitted on the GPS frequencies, but rather the GPS devices that sloppily "listen" to the adjacent LightSquared frequencies. The GPS chipsets were generally cheaply made with inadequate filtering.

    Sorry Derek, but as a hardware engineer this line is patently offensive. I know you want to focus on how LightSquared is a scrappy upstart, but this line just bothers me in so many ways. There was nothing inadequate or sloppy about the front-end filter design of GPS from yester-decade.

    Pretend you're a hardware engineer in the year 2000. Your manager comes up to you and says "design a front-end receiver for our new GPS in a cost-effective manner." So you do your homework: you look up federal regulations to determine the expected signal power in adjacent bands, you do some calculations, you determine the -dB/octave required in order to protect your GPS receiver from out-of-band transmissions in the field, and you design your filter to those specifications.

    There was nothing sloppy or inadequate in this design process. The engineer did his homework. At the time of design, the transmissions that LightSquared wants to put into that satellite band were ILLEGAL. As in, federal pound-me-in-the-ass prison illegal. There was literally no reason to make a large, expensive, "over-adequate filter"...unless the FCC was going to change the rules unexpectedly, which would require clairvoyance to foresee.

    Before libeling unknown engineers for "sloppy" or "inadequate" job performance, you may want to show proof of how their work was sloppy or inadequate. Because designing to meet a specification is the definition of good work. Unless it's sloppy or inadequate to not have a crystal ball to see into the future.

     

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    bbandeveywheuh (profile), Feb 21st, 2012 @ 10:25am

    Moving on...

    LightSquared should be relegated to the bin labeled "FCC Mishaps" and the conversation should turn to what to do from here to ensure better and cheaper broadband.

    What needs to be looked at is what might be available by allowing broadcasters the right to broadcast using a different modulation scheme than ATSC and one that would fit seamlessly with today's wireless networks. A broadcast overlay would eliminate the video congestion present today and allow video congestion to be non-existent.

    And the real question is this; isn't it quicker, better, cheaper to allow deregulation to take the place of auctions, for auctions will surely be a long, drawn-out process. Deregulation allows broadcasters to experiment with different modulation schemes, schemes that can be designed to work seamlessly with existing wireless modulation. If the government wants to extract its pound of flesh, allow the following; 1) B'casters pay a 5% ancillary revenue fee (already in place) for anything beyond basic broadcasting, such as spectrum leasing to wireless carriers 2) allow for a one-time fee to be paid to the government when a station's spectrum usage rights are purchased by a wireless carrier, 3) maybe even increase ancillary revenue fee to 7-10% when spectrum is leased to a wireless carrier.

    A plan of this sort would enable spectrum availability for wireless carriers while still maintaining a free OTA TV service. If a wireless carrier came to me and said that it wanted to lease my excess spectrum I would jump at the opportunity; the wireless carrier gets its much-needed spectrum and I am able to subsidize my free OTA TV station while eliminating wireless data usage penalties...sounds like a winner to me.

    The problem though is one of architecture...Wireless as it is currently configured is a one-to-one delivery, as opposed to broadcasting which is a one-to-many delivery. A lot of the network congestion would go away if wireless carriers implemented a one-to-many overlay with their current architecture, which is what they could do today if so inclined and what they will surely do with auction spectrum. But why go through a protracted battle—broadcasters would be willing to work with wireless carriers on a broadcast overlay plan and have offered to do so repeatedly. Another thing is that ancillary revenues bring in many more billions over a twenty year period than a one time auction (auction proceeds remain nebulous, probably no more than $6B to the Treasury).

    You have to ask this; what happens after an auction and the wireless carriers don't have any more spectrum to go after? What they will do is become more efficient, which is what they could do today...people really need to start asking the right questions. Move beyond the failed LightSquared experiment and move on to more pressing needs, which is ubiquitous broadband at an affordable price.

     

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  61.  
    icon
    Derek Kerton (profile), Feb 21st, 2012 @ 10:30am

    Re: I take offense to this

    Yeah. I concede that point. "Sloppy" does not apply to the work done by the GPS community. Their work was done to the appropriate tolerances and economics of the time, and the results are freaking amazing. To say the GPS inventors screwed up would be like saying Isaac Newton knew nothing of physics because he didn't get relativity. Yet the genius of the early work is clear.

    But that does not mean that the receivers, by modern standards, aren't a little sloppy, does it? Even at the time, GPS receivers *could have* been designed to tighter tolerances, but were not, correct?

    It looks like I've stumbled upon a war between the LS guys and the GPS camp. So people are hyper-sensitive. But if it's a question of taking sides, I would rather not. I'm more interested in the "new competitor" angle of this story. But if my post has put me on a side, it's probably the GPS side when I note that: "...who is at fault is irrelevant: it remains LightSquared's problem to solve if they want to launch their network."

     

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  62.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 21st, 2012 @ 12:39pm

    Re:

    "This scheme was cooked up by a bunch of technically illiterate MBAs who relied on crony capitalism to get this far."

    The problem is that lawyers are so used to manipulating the laws however they want that they accidentally decided to manipulate the laws of physics without thinking.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  63.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 21st, 2012 @ 12:41pm

    Re: Re:

    (or, they accidentally thought they could manipulate the laws of physics the same way they manipulate all the other laws without thinking. Of course it didn't work ...).

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  64.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 21st, 2012 @ 12:42pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    Maybe the lawyers can appeal the results to the appellate court of physics. Or they can lobby the Congress of physics to alter the laws of physics.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  65.  
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    A Guy (profile), Feb 21st, 2012 @ 1:54pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Whose problem was it?

    The problem is that even with digital filtering, it takes infinite time to perfectly filter anything, and the collective facepalm comes from the fact that this failure could have been demonstrated with a digital simulation in matlab without the need to build anything.

    All you really needed was a programmer, the frequency response of the filters LightSquared knew it had to accommodate, and the magnitude of the signal planned to use.

    The animosity toward LightSquared comes from the fact that they should have known this and tried to use political connections to force a bad/not ready technology down our throats.

     

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  66.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 21st, 2012 @ 2:55pm

    Re: Re: I take offense to this

    Derek,

    I think the problem is that LS actions sort of force one to "take sides". It's not as if LS reached out to the GPS community to find a workable solution. They set out to do it on their own, and once it became clear that a workable solution wouldn't be in their best financial interest they went on the offensive. They've done a spectacular job of turfing and lobbying - doing everything they could to promote the "job creation" and "broadband for all" in order to hide the fact that GPS could be affected.

    Once the engineers started asking questions, LS did everything they could to frame it as "GPS was poorly designed" instead of "we can't make it work the way we envisioned, but we welcome the help of the GPS industry to see if we can make it happen." That would have probably helped a bunch PR-wise.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  67.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 21st, 2012 @ 5:41pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: sigh, please learn some basics

    I'm sorry but any claim that "GPS receivers sloppily listen to adjacent frequencies" is simply ignorant nonsense.

    I can not believe you guys are still trying to push this argument. If you actually understood anything about how radios work you'd stop this silliness.

    I'd love to see your notch filter than can handle terrestrial signals BILLIONS of times stronger

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  68.  
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    Jay (profile), Feb 21st, 2012 @ 6:16pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: sigh, please learn some basics

    I'd love to hear about a follow up to this, focused on the GPS community. Perhaps the notion of actual competition would have caused them to shield their products much better at the frequency they were using.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  69.  
    icon
    Jay (profile), Feb 21st, 2012 @ 9:41pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    The better option might be to focus it all on the FCC. They shouldn't be selling spectrum anyway. They should be making sure the market is competitive and allow everyone to fight it out. If not, we should get rid of them.

    What I find disappointing is that the argument for the FCC ignores the reality of radio's history. The innovation came at the cost of disrupting business models. RCA should know that better than anyone with the FM radio. Sadly, that's not going to happen here until the FCC is gone.

     

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  70.  
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    Derek Kerton (profile), Feb 22nd, 2012 @ 1:16pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Strange that it is so against the Laws of Physics, yet the NTIA testing concluded that LS interfered with older legacy GPS devices, yet current smartphones with GPS could determine their location during testing.

    Somehow these phones defied the laws of physics? Listen, I don't care how well/not well it worked in the smartphones. The fact is that it worked. That is enough to prove that we aren't talking about something that is totally impossible.

    I'm totally on board with the people here arguing that LS interfered with legacy devices, and that this is not acceptable. But I don't buy into the "LS defied the laws of physics" line so many have repeated, nor do I understand the anger or glee with which it is delivered.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  71.  
    identicon
    Jeff R, Feb 22nd, 2012 @ 3:10pm

    The gory details.

    This PDF explains in great detail the physics behind the problems.

    http://www.saveourgps.org/pdf/technical_explanations_of_twg_final_report.pdf

    For example, from page 7: "Narrowband GPS receivers only use a small fraction of the GPS spectrum, typically using just 6 percent or 2MHZ of the 32MHz GPS signal, which is broadcast in the Radio Navigation Satellite Services (RNSS) band internationally reserved for the transmission of GPS and satellite navigation signals. These receivers, such as those used in cell phones, do not produce high accuracy (they are typically accurate to only less than 100 feet). Using a fracton of the GPS band provides some additional resistance to interference -- the 94 percent of the RNSS band they do not use provides additional separation fromt he interfering signal in the adjacent band where LightSquared proposes to operate. Thus Narrowband receivers may be able to withstand higher interference levels before malfunctioning, although at the penalty of degraded performance do to use of only a small fraction of the available GPS signals."

    It's perfectly fine for your cellphone or your car to only be accurate to a couple hundred of feet. It is entirely unacceptable for other applications such as aviation navigation...

    Additionally, on page 9 there is an discussion of the three types of interference observed.. Overload, Intermodulation, and Co-Channel. The relative power levels between the proposed LightSquared signals and the received GPS signals is from 42dbm to -132dbm respectively. that's 800 billion times more power and cannot be effectively filtered.


    The anger that goes along with the opposition to LightSquared has to do with the crony capitalism that was involved in getting the provisional waiver to operate as well as the FCC driving a competitor into bankruptcy. Add on top of that trying to discredit the testimony of the
    chief architect of GPS wao was also its original program director in 1972 as having a conflict of interest.

    LightSquared is playing politics with GPS and people who rely on GPS are pissed about it.

    http://hotair.com/archives/2012/02/22/did-the-fcc-try-to-drive-a-lightsquared-competitor-into -bankruptcy/

    http://dailycaller.com/2012/02/22/documents-show-obamas-fcc-used-regulatory-muscle-t o-destroy-lightsquareds-competition/

    http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0212/72322.html

    http ://www.pcworld.com/article/248224/lightsquared_claims_conflict_of_interest_in_federal_analysis.html

     

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  72.  
    identicon
    Matt Ridgeway, Mar 26th, 2012 @ 10:13am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Cell phones only look at about 5% of the GPS spectrum because they do not have to meet any safety of life or precision levels. Completely different situation, no laws of physics broken there.
    All of this talk of losing out on a nationwide amazing new wireless service boohoo is a bit oversold. The ground component would have only been as broad as the current Sprint network (but not anymore) and that might have been an arguably high speed and maybe, maybe, cheaper service, but according ot LS2's own documents filed with the FCC they were going to do satelite only in the rest of the country and that would be a one cent per kilobyte, yes that adds up to $10K per Gigabyte. The satelite coverage was simply a joke and only used for show in a ploy to turn cheap satelite spectrum into more valuable ground spectrum. Gamble big, sometimes lose big.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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