America's wireless broadband problem just got a lot worse

FCC veto of LightSquared's plans for massive wireless network may have also put the brakes on widespread 4G deployment

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That last claim is scary, of course. But LightSquared argues the testing was flawed and tilted in favor of GPS providers, so it needs to be further evaluated. That probably won't happen, and it's quite likely that LightSquared and many millions of dollars are going away for good.

If the technology really is flawed, that's simply the risk that investors in any new technology have to bear, and I'm not sorry for them. But the technical issues behind the denial are knotty. The interference between LightSquared signals and the GPS band isn't exactly the fault of LightSquared's technology. It appears that GPS devices "hear" signals in adjacent bands of spectrum and get confused. Whose fault is that?

Jeff Carlisle, LightSquared's executive vice president for regulatory affairs and public policy, wrote on the company's blog this week that the GPS industry had apparently become "too big to fail" and is seeking protection from the federal government for its own mistakes. "GPS manufacturers have been selling devices that listen into frequencies outside of their assigned spectrum band -- namely into LightSquared's licensed band," Carlisle wrote. "The GPS industry has leveraged years of insider relationships and massive lobbying dollars to make sure that they don't have to fix the problem they created."

Suppose he's right. How many years and millions or billions of dollars would it take to fix the GPS devices that do everything from help fly airplanes to keep giant tractors on course as they till the fields? Tractor maker John Deere is one of the companies that opposes LightSquared, in yet another illustration of how complex and far-reaching the wireless infrastructure really is. Even if the GPS makers are at fault, should the government give LightSquared the go-ahead, consequences be damned? You can see why the feds finally said no, despite wanting LightSquared to succeed.

Still, the underlying problem needs to get fixed, and the solution is way above my pay grade. Even if these issues are somehow addressed, it will be quite a while before these issues are solved. And that means you shouldn't expect to see ubiquitous 4G services for some time. If they aren't addressed, you may never see them.

I welcome your comments, tips, and suggestions. Post them here (Add a comment) so that all our readers can share them, or reach me at Follow me on Twitter at BSnyderSF.

This article, "America's wireless broadband problem just got a lot worse," was originally published by Read more of Bill Snyder's Tech's Bottom Line blog and follow the latest technology business developments at For the latest business technology news, follow on Twitter.

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