What would the world be like without GPS?
6 Jul 2011 Jason 0
There’s a battle going on and some fear the GPS system we’ve all come to rely on could be the loser. This is a fight that should be of interest to a lot of us who use GPS every day, sometimes even without knowing it, whether it’s a safe landing or an efficient ride in a taxi, it all relies on GPS.
So what exactly is this danger that threatens to rob us of GPS? And what would a world without GPS be like?
LightSquared broadband service threatens GPS
In an effort to bring broadband internet to remote areas, LightSquared developed a satellite-based wholesale broadband service. This MSS (Mobile Satellite Service) is set to transmit in the L-Band (1.5GHz – 1.6GHz frequency zone).
The concern is that when the service begins broadcasting from their estimated 40,000 land-based (terrestrial) stations it will effectively “drown out” the relatively weak GPS signal. In fact, it is said the signals will be a “billion times” stronger than the current GPS transmission, which highlights the danger of the new service.
The threat level has escalated to the point where both the Pentagon and DOT have waded into the fight, writing to the FCC (the government group tasked with approving new communication channels) to voice their concerns and request LightSquared change their technology to make sure there is no possibility of it interfering with GPS signals.
What is being done to resolve the threat?
Now that LightSquared’s plans have been determined as a ‘clear and present’ danger to GPS, battle lines have been drawn, with LightSquared claiming that they can coexist with GPS devices, and a new coalition dubbed ‘Save our GPS’ warning that the failure of GPS will severely impact on critical services such as aircraft aviation and military operations.
There has been some movement on LightSquared’s part. In late June 2011, LightSquared offered to use a different slice of the airwaves located far away from GPS frequencies and also made a commitment to making sure their technology worked with existing GPS devices.
They also claim the problem can be fixed using five cent filters that help GPS units screen out signals, including interference from LightSquared’s MSS. But retrofitting millions of devices is not an option according to GPS manufacturers such as Garmin. They say it could also take up to ten years and be extremely costly for aviation applications.
Will GPS survive this threat from LightSquared?
With a working group setup to work alongside LightSquared as well as a powerful coalition setup to protect the GPS infrastructure, we can expect GPS will not be disappearing anytime soon.
Hopefully everyone will do their job and make sure the two services stay separated otherwise it could get ugly. Can you imagine a world without GPS? What would you miss the most? Getting those helpful turn-by-turn directions? Knowing where your kids are? Checking in on foursquare? Or knowing your plane is going to land safely? Add yours below and let us know if you think LightSquared should be allowed to interfere with our GPS system.
Categories: Consumer GPS