As we come to rely more and more on GPS tracking systems for an ever-expanding variety of services, threats to the satellites that provide such accurate locating systems are increasingly alarming. Right on the tail of a recent report that solar storms could wipe out our GPS satellite constellation within the next few years, comes news that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has okayed a company called LightSquared to put these satellites in more immediate jeopardy. The company is planning to repurpose a group of satellites that neighbor GPS satellites for a new broadband communications service.
The problem is that LightSquared’s plan involves the transmission of ground-based radio signals that are at least one billion times more powerful than the signals of the GPS tracking systems. Due to the proximity of the satellite constellations, concerns have risen that the disparity in signal power might cause interference to the many GPS systems in use. This could cause devastating consequences if the new signals interfere with GPS information transmitting to airlines, trains, police or emergency response services.
In order to try to prevent such devastating consequences, the “Coalition to Save Our GPS” was formed by representatives from a wide variety of services and industries that may be affected by this change. Some of these industries include federal, state and local governments, emergency response teams, airlines, construction, surveying, civil engineering, agriculture and consumers with smart phones and cars equipped with GPS tracking systems.
The coalition is demanding that the FCC do more to ensure that GPS signals will not be interfered with. They are suggesting that the FCC mandate a study observed by an objective third party to test the signal interference. LightSquared has agreed to work with the U.S. Global Positioning System Industry Council (USGIC) to determine what interference problems are present.
Article Written by Marisa O’Connor