- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The boss of an upstart Virginia company said Wednesday that his firm is on the cusp of solving technical problems that have dogged its effort to build a nationwide high-speed wireless network that critics worry will cripple military and commercial navigation systems.

“Watch this space,” Sanjiv Ahuja, CEO of Reston-based LightSquared, told editors and reporters at The Washington Times. “In the next few days, we will come out and say, ‘It’s possible, and here’s the engineering solution for it.’ “

Mr. Ahuja and his company for months have been at the center of a firestorm of controversy over the $15 billion network, which he said will slash consumers’ cellphone bills by more than a third. The row was set to continue this week when Julius Genachowski, chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, testifies to a House Armed Services subcommittee.

The hearing will examine claims from the GPS industry that the LightSquared network — which uses a portion of the radio frequency spectrum adjacent to the one used by GPS devices - will interfere with the receivers used in its products, such as in-car navigation systems. The subcommittee also will hear from defense officials about any potential impact on military GPS navigation systems, such as those used in smart bombs.

At a congressional hearing this month, the government official in charge of maintaining the GPS system expressed concern about the impact of LightSquared’s planned network.

LightSquared’s proposed system would create harmful interference [with GPS devices] throughout all three phases of its planned deployment,” Anthony Russo, director of the National Coordination Office for Space-Based Positioning, Navigation, and Timing, told the House Science Committee.

Mr. Ahuja said Wednesday that getting approval for the network was “one of the most politicized [regulatory] processes” he had ever experienced in more than 30 countries where he has owned and operated telecommunications networks.

However, he added that his company has worked with U.S. regulators and will be able to solve the technical issues they raised in plenty of time to meet a Nov. 30 deadline to complete tests to show that the network will not interfere with GPS receivers.

“I feel very good about what FCC and [the National Telecommunications and Information Administration] have done,” he said.

“I like an engineering challenge,” he added. “For months, we’ve been trying to get it to be an engineering issue instead of leaked reports and innuendos and a politically driven process.

“We’re trying to get it to be a fact-based conversation based on engineering and technical data. … That I can deal with very easily.”

He said LightSquared was working hard and had spent millions of dollars to be a “good neighbor” to the GPS industry, which he blamed for the technical problems.

He said GPS receivers should have been better designed to eliminate interference from neighboring areas of the spectrum,adding that the industry’s response had been “very disappointing and in many ways irresponsible.”

The industry says the spectrum was originally designated for satellite — not ground-based — use.

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