Business

Hopes dim for Sprint ally’s plan

Philip Falcone’s LightSquared Inc. wireless service disrupts many global positioning system receivers and there’s no practical solution to allow it to operate soon, U.S. officials said after nine months of tests.

“No additional testing is warranted at this time,” the National Executive Committee for Space-Based Positioning, Navigation & Timing said in a letter Friday. The interagency body advises the government on GPS technology, and its letter was a recommendation to the U.S. Commerce Department.

LightSquared rejected the agency’s conclusion as biased and called for the Federal Communications Commission and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration to take over any study.

“Government testing has become unfair and shrouded from the public eye,” it said.

U.S. regulators are deciding whether LightSquared’s disruption of navigation equipment will keep the Reston, Va., company from commencing high-speed wireless service to as many as 260 million people.

Overland Park-based Sprint Nextel Corp. had already set aside its work for hosting some transmitters planned for LightSquared’s land-based service. LightSquared ultimately hopes to offer wireless phone and data services that combine cell towers with its already launched satellite for nearly ubiquitous coverage in the U.S.

The agreement between Sprint and LightSquared is potentially worth billions to Sprint. But it’s contingent on LightSquared raising money, which is sure to turn on quick regulatory approval. It has tentative approval for working in a radio spectrum that had long been set aside for satellite phones — a lightly used radio frequency because one company after the next has failed at such business. A Sprint spokesman had no comment.

Tests by federal agencies all show that original and modified plans by LightSquared “would cause harmful interference to many GPS receivers,” Ashton Carter, deputy secretary of defense, and John Porcari, deputy secretary of transportation, said in the letter.

“There appear to be no practical solutions or mitigations that would permit the LightSquared broadband service, as proposed, to operate in the next few months or years without significantly interfering with GPS,” they wrote.

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