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Crossed signals with GPS

Earlier this year, the Federal Communications Commission allowed a satellite company, LightSquared, to build a ground-based wireless network (for the 4G network) using its satellite frequencies. This new wireless network will operate in the same frequency band immediately adjacent to the GPS band.

And there in lies the problem because this wireless network is much more powerful than the GPS signal, which means it has the potential to interfere with or completely block many GPS receivers across the country. The result? GPS equipment would be inoperable and useless, which would be a damaging outcome for a multitude of applications in agriculture as well as aviation and construction.

Foreseeing the potential threat, key players of a wide variety of industries and companies, including agriculture, gathered and created Coalition to Save Our GPS ( The group includes names like Agco, Case New Holland, Caterpillar, John Deere, OmniStar, Topcon, Trimble, and the Association of Equipment Manufacturers (AEM).

Problem resolved - not quite

While LightSquared offered up a solution this past week, the initial response from the Coalition left members baffled. In an attempt to stop the continued threat posed by LightSquared, one of the Coalitions founding members, AEM, called on Congress and the Administration to stop plans for disruption of GPS. 

The statement by Dennis Slater, AEM President, notes that not only would the 40,000 ground stations LightSquared is proposing likely render GPS signals unreliable and in some instances useless, allowing them to implement their plan would also add unnecessary burdens to the U.S. economy.

“A study just released by the Coalition to Save Our GPS reveals that the stakes in this issue are very high and very real for our struggling economy,” Slater’s statement reads. “The numbers are staggering: more than 3.3 million jobs depend on GPS technology and the direct economic cost to U.S. commercial GPS users and manufacturers could be $96 billion. Allowing LightSquared to move forward with its plan would heighten uncertainty at a time when we are already economically challenged. Implementation would hurt two key machinery manufacturing areas represented by AEM, agriculture and construction.”

In fact, one AEM-member company claims that LightSquared’s plan could degrade most if not all GPS receivers as far away as 22 miles from one of the 40,000 transmitters.

“The harm to highly-productive precision agriculture is clear,” Slater notes. “Farmer business plans depend on GPS information such as yield data, harvest weights, moisture data, and other precision agriculture data. Interference with GPS signals up to 22 miles away would devastate productivity and impede U.S. agriculture’s ability to help meet the compounding worldwide demand for food.”

Stay tuned to this very volatile issue continues to unfold and evolve.

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