Study: LightSquared Network Could Knock Out GPS

Jun 10 2011 | 2:05am ET

A new round of government global-positioning system testing is bad news for Harbinger Capital Management.

The National PNT Engineering Forum, a federal advisory group, said that its test showed that Harbinger's planned wireless broadband network, LightSquared, adversely affects GPS systems, sometimes seriously. The findings are likely to increase the drumbeat—already growing louder—for the Federal Communications Commission to put the brakes on LightSquared's ambitious plans.

The FCC has already granted LightSquared a needed waiver, but pledged to ensure that the network would not interfere with other systems. Four Cabinet-level agencies, 66 congressmen and Deere & Co. have called on the FCC to block LightSquared.

That would be a tremendous blow to Harbinger, which has more than 60% of its assets invested in LightSquared, and its investors, who were forced to take more than half of their redemptions in the form of in-kind distribution of illiquid LightSquared shares.

The National PNT study found a range of reactions to the LightSquared network, from a loss of signal strength to total device failure. Those findings echoed a study commissioned by the Federal Aviation Administration, which said that "GPS operations below 2,000 feet would be unavailable over a large radius of metro" areas.

LightSquared said it was looking for solutions to the interference problem.

"We believe we can deploy in a way where we can co-exist," Jeffrey Carlisle, the company's executive vice president of regulatory affairs and public policy, said.

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