The American Soybean Association (ASA) and a coalition of 12 other national producer groups that represent American farmers are urging the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to conduct additional testing to ensure that any potential wireless services offered by LightSquared will not cause harmful interference to Global Positioning Satellite (GPS) operations. In the agricultural sector, GPS-based technologies are responsible for an estimated $19 billion in higher annual farm revenue, in addition to considerable safety and environmental benefits, according to association officials.
“It would be totally unacceptable to expect the GPS community, including government users, farmers, and other taxpayers to bear any cost for replacing equipment that ceases to function properly if solutions are found enabling LightSquared to move forward,” association officials said in a prepared statement. “Any costs associated with retrofitting or replacing GPS receivers must be borne by LightSquared.”
“As users of GPS precision equipment in agricultural applications, we believe this additional testing is imperative,” said ASA First Vice President Steve Wellman, a farmer from Syracuse, Neb. “We need to know with certainty that any modifications and proposed solutions will work for new and existing precision agriculture equipment.”
Testing must include laboratory and field analysis of LightSquared’s proposed solutions, and must adequately examine the full range of scenarios to ensure that the base stations and handheld devices proposed by LightSquared do not degrade GPS receivers, he added.
In January 2011, the FCC gave conditional approval to LightSquared to build tens of thousands of ground stations that may cause interference to GPS signals. The radio wave spectrum LightSquared plans to use for its system sits in what is known as the L-Band, which is just adjacent to the spectrum which GPS devices use.
LightSquared gave initial assurances that its original proposal would not cause interference to the nation’s GPS system. However, government and commercial tests demonstrated conclusively that its original network proposal would cause widespread disruption to GPS service. LightSquared officials have said the problem is with GPS equipment and the fix would involve improving that equipment, a position that GPS users — including those in GA — disagree vehemently with.
Testing must include laboratory and field analysis of LightSquared’s proposed solutions, and must adequately examine the full range of scenarios to ensure that the base stations and handheld devices proposed by LightSquared do not degrade GPS receivers, the farmers conclude.