ATA Calls on Congress to Protect GPS from Interference

A new front in the technology wars opened this week as the Air Transport Association (ATA), called on Congress to prohibit LightSquared from deploying their services in any way that interferes with the integrity of the nation’s Global Positioning System (GPS). Any disruption of GPS services could significantly impact the nation’s air traffic control system and delay the implementation of NextGen in the coming years, ATA said.

“If the FCC is determined to allow LightSquared to launch its wireless broadband network, the agency should find alternative spectrum that will not compromise the GPS network. Congress must ensure that there is no interference with GPS from wireless broadband deployment,” said ATA Senior Vice President for Safety, Security and Operations Tom Hendricks, who testified before the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

ATA and its members support public- and private-sector efforts to expand wireless broadband service across the country. However, the ATA said the powerful ground-based system proposed by LightSquared would render GPS useless. GPS is a critical safety technology for aviation and a core technology of the Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen). U.S. airlines use GPS-based arrival and departure procedures that are more precise and fuel-efficient than radar and surface-based navigation system procedures and enable increased aircraft throughput. More than 86 percent of commercial aircraft are already equipped with GPS, the ATA argued.

"We strongly oppose any proposed service that would compromise the integrity of the GPS system. Given that nearly 6,000 commercial aircraft and tens of thousands of business and general-aviation aircraft are GPS-equipped, the continued unimpeded use of GPS is indispensable to the future of aviation,” Hendricks said.

The ATA cited recent tests by RTCA, Inc., a federal advisory panel on aviation navigation and air-traffic management policy, definitively concluded that LightSquared’s network would render GPS unusable by aviation users below 2,000 feet in the vicinity of a single-city deployment, and at all altitudes in dense metropolitan areas. Similarly, the National Space-Based Positioning, Navigation, and Timing Systems Engineering Forum concluded that LightSquared’s system “cannot successfully coexist with GPS, the ATA said.

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