For many months, the battle raged between GPS companies and LightSquared, and the U.S. government took a very active role. LightSquared has represented itself as the little hero, trying to set up a better mobile network for us, the users, against the tyranny of big GPS companies that are afraid the new network might cramp their style.
Many of those big GPS companies joined forces to oppose LightSquared’s plans, claiming that it would cause GPS interference with critical emergency, military, and other applications. Representatives from LightSquared, on the other hand, argued that this is only true because GPS companies have been regularly trespassing into the bandwidth that the new network is scheduled to use. Rather than spend money to revise their systems and make them adhere to the prescribed bandwidths, they try to keep the new network off the air.
The drawn-out series of government hearings and arguments, not to mention red-tape delays, have exhausted the resources that LightSquared had at its disposal. The company could not make any profits until the planned network was allowed to go online, and those plans were denied. Federal regulators have agreed that the GPS interference of a LightSquared network would be excessively disruptive and dangerous to GPS users. LightSquared and its CEO, Philip Falcone, shuffled money and debts around to buy a little more time, but the company failed to find a workable solution, resulting in bankruptcy.
A close call for dangerous GPS interference, or a disturbing example of industry leaders joining together to shut out a competitor? Opinions will no doubt continue to fly, but we may never really know whether the mobile network would have had the disastrous effects that GPS companies claimed it would. If nothing else, perhaps the months-long incident will lead to calls for reform among GPS bandwidth users to clear adjoining frequencies for future networks. As the industry expands, the space may well be needed.