Fast 4G or super accurate GPS – Pick one, you can’t have both

LightSquared 4G may interfere with GPS
LightSquared 4G may interfere with GPS

We all salivate when we hear that networks are rolling out super fast 4G networks – I’m still holding out upgrading my Verizon phone until I can get one with 4G LTE like the Droid Bionic – but could these 4G networks be hurting the accuracy of the GPS chips in the smartphones? A new report suggests that at least one new 4G network may have to deal with GPS dead zones.

According to the New Scientist, the LightSquared satellite 4G LTE service may compromise potential GPS services because of the bands that its base stations will use.

But in January, the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) gave preliminary approval to a plan by LightSquared to build 40,000 new 4G base stations on the ground. These stations would broadcast much stronger signals in the 1525 to 1559 MHz range, to link to cellphones.

Based on lab simulations of the new transmissions, Scott Burgett and Bronson Hokuf, engineers with satnav manufacturer Garmin International in Olathe, Kansas, say this will seriously damage GPS reception. In a report to the FCC last month, they say that overlaps between the two systems are inevitable, and that this “will result in widespread, severe GPS jamming [and] will deny GPS service over vast areas of the United States”.

To be fair, LightSquared said that the issue is with the GPS receivers and not its base stations but I don’t know if it matters who is wrong, as those GPS receivers appear to work with the T-Mobile, Sprint, AT&T and Verizon 4G network, so LightSquared may be the one that has to eat the costs. Sure, it’s spending billions to create a wholesale 4G LTE network, but the major carriers have already spent billion and would be very peeved if they suddenly had to use different GPS technology.

We’ll keep an eye on this story as the LightSquared service pushes forward.

[Via New Scientist, photo]

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  • Great, just what we need yet another 4G technology spectrum frequency that isnt used for any other company…

    700, 800, 1500, 1700, 1900, 2100, 2500 – too many spectrum differences means companies should merge and team up and network share.

    Verizon and AT&T should team up and LightSquared, T-Mobile and Sprint should team up.

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