Truth be told, I have a reasonable sense of direction so I don’t own a GPS system aside from the one which comes with my smart phone. But I have had the pleasure of riding along with a number of people who are, shall we say, directionally challenged. For them, GPS is a necessary fuel- and time-saver, and it’s a key to this story.
It was last year that LightSquared, a new startup company which wanted to get into the broadband business, persuaded the FCC to give it the green light to conditionally develop a broadband network which would compete with AT&T and Verizon. But there was one big problem – the frequencies LightSquared wished to use were adjacent to those used by GPS systems, and LightSquared’s broadband would be far more powerful than the GPS signal. It’s a situation not unlike that of radio, where a weaker station signal can be drowned out by a more powerful one on an adjacent frequency. That’s why stations in the same market are set some distance apart on the dial; in the case of FM radio the spacing is generally 0.8 megahertz (i.e. 97.3, 98.1, 98.9, etc.)
Yet the LightSquared saga is also intriguing for its connection to President Obama and charges of crony capitalism.