Reviewing LightSquared

Much discussion has been based on the issue of LightSquared’s bandwidth interfering with the L1 signal from GPS satellites. If it hasn’t been clear, that bandwidth right next to the L1 frequency is also more commonly known as “4G-lite” to cell phone providers and is already being heavily marketed and invested in as the next big thing. Many arguments and statements exist to oppose LightSquared, so here is another possible point of view on the issue.


Professional grade instruments are expensive, standardized and enduring. They are that way because professionals of any sector are a small but wealthy market. While good for meeting standards, this uniform march of tools gives little to innovation. On the other hand, consumer market items start out with greatly inhibited quality but eventually rise to the level of their professional counterparts while remaining close to their starting prices. Open-source software is an example of this principle: Maximizing a user base and identifying unconventional but successful solutions leads to the best results. Google, Nikon and Hyundai prove this idea works.

Using this thought, if LightSquared were allowed to use its bandwidth, devices would be enabled to more greatly access the ever-growing data network. Conventional surveying is a dying profession, with less and less work as contractors and engineers are able to provide their own data and governments loosen regulations to cheapen the cost of growth. Providing for the need of the people’s data use is a growing and profitable enterprise, on the scale of billions of dollars in both revenue and growth this year. Giving 4G to the public not only makes mobile data faster, it also allows for more complex data uses such as augmented reality, autonomous navigation and “smart” homes. This network not only uses data, but it grows the need for it. 3D models and high-precision spatial data become critically important and much more valuable. Surveyors, who are still professionals creating and applying spatial data, stand to be the de-facto suppliers to a very lucrative and modern need.

Maybe letting LightSquared have its bandwidth wouldn’t be such a bad idea after all. L2C signals can replace L1 and will provide a better result. After reading what information is available on actual interference, the only way a solution can be reached is to let more devices try to interfere with one another. Courts and land law exist to provide compensation and justice where wrongs are made, so any damages could be recovered through legal action.

Is giving LightSquared its space in the invisible world selling out on our quality? Are the risks of letting 4G come to light outweighed by the rewards? Protecting sensitive data systems is something a professional should do, but so is finding out all the facts and presenting a solid case. The debate awaits.

Posted by Andrew Gaiennie on Oct 5, 2011 10:15 AM EDT

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