Over the last few months, LightSquared’s CEO has repeatedly asserted that he is “absolutely confident” that LightSquared will “build a system that works with” GPS and that “we will get the proper approvals from the FCC and other government agencies” when the decision comes out in September. Most recently, at the end of September, he told the New York Post that he is “absolutely confident the FCC will approve” LightSquared’s revised business plan later this year. I’m also told that earlier this year he personally “guaranteed” to investors there was no interference problem with GPS, which was how LightSquared was able to raise a further $586M in February.
News has emerged today which yet again proves Mr Ahuja’s confidence was completely misplaced, with Aviation News reporting that the next round of government tests of LightSquared’s “lower 10″ plan are getting underway this week and will run into the first part of November. Notably, as I indicated earlier, high precision receivers are not part of this testing and so the testing needed for the FCC to reach a decision will certainly not be completed this year (not to mention the fact that the NPEF doubts it will be possible even to complete its analysis of the current testing by November 30).
High-precision GPS receivers, which original tests showed would suffer unacceptable interference even from lower-band transmissions, are not being tested as LightSquared is still working with suppliers on development of antennas and filters to protect these devices, used in agriculture, construction and scientific sectors.
Indeed a new ex parte submission, documenting a meeting between the GPS industry, LightSquared and the FCC on October 25, brokered by a member of Congress, confirms that “LightSquared has proposed to develop new filters that could be employed in new high precision GPS receivers that would protect against interference from Low 10 MHz transmissions. Such filters have not yet been made available”. This is despite LightSquared’s assertions on September 21 that “Javad GNSS has completed the design, made prototypes and tested those prototypes. Preproduction units will be released for public tests in October, followed by mass production.”
Perhaps that is why LightSquared apparently now plans to commission its own “independent” tests by Alcatel-Lucent Bell Labs, though of course those will not carry any weight in the testing process mandated by the NTIA and FCC. However, it is hard to see how LightSquared can claim that “These solutions will undergo extensive National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) and Federal Communications Commission (FCC) testing in the coming weeks” unless “in the coming weeks” is re-defined as “sometime next year (if we’re still in business then)”.
Over the last month, we haven’t seen as many high profile appearances from Mr Ahuja, and apparently he has been visiting India to promote his Augere venture in Asia and Africa. However, he is scheduled to speak on Wed Nov 2 at the Open Mobile Summit in San Francisco, and it will be interesting to hear how “absolutely confident” he is in whatever LightSquared’s story changes to next week.