Two Senators Call for Closer Review of Next-Generation Cellular Network

Two U.S. senators called for greater regulatory scrutiny of a proposed next-generation cellular network that, some critics contend, could interfere with or even block GPS signals.

In an April 14 letter, Sens. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) and Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) called on their Senate colleagues to ask the Federal Communications Commission to take oversight responsibility of the proposed wireless network out of the hands of one of its subagencies.

“The full commission must be involved,” the senators wrote. “Anything less is an unacceptable risk to public safety.”

Earlier this year, the FCC’s International Bureau, a suborganization of the full commission, granted LightSquared, Reston, Va., a conditional waiver to proceed with construction of the new wireless network.

A coalition, which comprises trade groups and individual corporations, arose to oppose what it called the unprecedented speed with which the FCC’s International Bureau granted the waiver.

The coalition argues that because LightSquared’s proposed network would broadcast powerful transmissions on communications spectra very close to the GPS spectrum, the terrestrial network might wipe out the satellite signal entirely in areas where the two overlap.

Members of the Coalition to Save Our GPS include mostly companies in the aerospace, satellite and farming industries. However, UPS Inc., the largest for-hire trucker in the country, and PeopleNet, a provider of fleet-management hardware and software for truckers, are also members.

LightSquared said on its website that it expects to begin commercial rollout of its ground-based network in the second half of this year.

The LightSquared network would adhere to the wireless industry’s “Long Term Evolution” standard. LTE networks will be more powerful than current “third-generation,” or 3G, cellular networks.