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LightSquared seeks probe of GPS advisory board member

LightSquared says the vice chairman of an official body, also on the board of a company fighting LightSquared, has a conflict of interest

By Stephen Lawson
January 12, 2012 07:16 PM ET

IDG News Service - LightSquared is seeking an investigation of a federal official involved in deciding whether the company can deploy its hybrid satellite-LTE network, saying he simultaneously serves on the board of a GPS company opposing the network.

On Thursday, the mobile broadband startup petitioned the Inspector General of NASA to investigate Bradford Parkinson, the vice chairman of a board that advises the government on GPS. Parkinson should be removed from discussions about potential interference between GPS and LightSquared's proposed LTE (Long Term Evolution) network because he is also a director of GPS vendor Trimble Navigation, LightSquared said in its petition.

LightSquared wants to build a mobile broadband network that uses both LTE on the ground and satellites in space, providing nationwide U.S. coverage with faster speeds in more populated areas. It would sell access to either or both of these networks wholesale to other carriers. The planned LTE network has come under attack because of tests that show interference between that system and GPS.

The company is going all-out in fighting opposition to its plan. Last week, Philip Falcone, the head of parent company Harbinger Capital Partners, and two LightSquared officials met with the U.S. Federal Communications Commission to explain modifications to the plan that LightSquared said will significantly cut the potential for interference. But pressure is growing on the company, including from a provision added to the 2012 Defense Authorization Act signed into law last month that would require that interference issues with military GPS be resolved before the network goes live. LightSquared says it has enough financing to wait several quarters for approval if necessary.

The Coalition to Save Our GPS, an industry group that includes Trimble, called the complaint on Thursday an act of desperation.

"LightSquared has submitted proposal after proposal trying to address the interference problem, each time claiming a 'solution.' Each of these claims has subsequently been proven false by extensive, independent testing. It appears that LightSquared has now run out of solutions and has nothing left but baseless allegations about process," the Coalition said in a statement attributed to spokesman Dale Leibach.

Parkinson's dual affiliations are known by everyone involved in the LightSquared review process, the group said. "Because the PNT advisory board consists of leading experts for the U.S. and international GPS manufacturing and user community, as well as other affected industries, associations with manufacturers are entirely appropriate," the Coalition said.

The NASA Inspector General's office could not immediately be reached for comment.

Trimble sells products and services for precision GPS and has been one of the most prominent opponents of LightSquared's network plan. LightSquared said deployment of its network could force Trimble to adapt its equipment to stop using frequencies licensed to LightSquared, a concern that LightSquared said Trimble has acknowledged. Parkinson sits on the board of Trimble, so he should have recused himself from the government's decision-making process on the LTE proposal, LightSquared said.

Reprinted with permission from Story copyright 2014 International Data Group. All rights reserved.
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