US wireless broadband project hits snag

Written by Antony Leather

April 7, 2011 // 12:05 p.m.

Tags: #broadband #gps #nation-wide #wifi

A project to provide the US mainland with a nationwide wireless broadband network has hit a major stumbling block - it could conflict with GPS signals.

According to The Guardian, makers of GPS devices, as well as a host of other parties such as the aviation sector and emergency services, are very concerned about the impact of the network on GPS signals.

Virginia-based company LightSquared is constructing the network, which uses signals on a very similar frequency to those transmitted by GPS satellites. According to The Guardian, the background noise of the LightSquared signals, produced by as many as 40,000 transmitters, is also more powerful than the strength of GPS signals when they're received at ground-level.

GPS is used increasingly for all-manner of navigational tasks, and fall-back systems, such as ground-based radio signals for aircraft, could end up suffering from lack of coverage and thus accuracy.

One solution is to provide filters in existing and future GPS devices. However, this is a costly method, and manufacturers of GPS devices have already clashed with LightSquared over the estimated cost of doing this. However, mobile phones may not need the additional filter for basic positioning, as they can use other methods to determine their position.

The idea behind the network is that LightSquared would provide access to US-based companies, which would then in turn sell access directly to consumers. However, the budget for the project is reportedly $5bn short of the required $7bn needed to complete the network.

Is a nationwide wireless broadband network a good idea? Would you pay more for GPS devices as a result? Let us know in the forums.

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