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Is GPS about to be broken?

Keir Thomas | March 10, 2011
Could you live without your satellite navigation system?

Perhaps in an indication of its underlying intention, the coalition goes on to say that interference issues should be taken care of by LightSquared, which "must bear the costs of preventing interference of any kind resulting from operations on LightSquared's frequencies."

That could well be the meat of the argument: It might be that GPS and LightSquared's proposed service are able to coexist only after modifications to GPS hardware--perhaps adding filtering circuits or shielding. And who will pick up the bill? Is it right, for example, if consumers have to pay for more expensive hardware just so another 4G LTE service joins the airwaves?

Regardless of who would pay for any necessary tweaks to new products, however, it wouldn't do anything to protect existing GPS hardware against interference issues. There would need to be a significant upgrade of global airline systems, for example. Firmware updates might be able to address the issue but, again, the question of who will pay for the work is unanswered.

At the consumer level, GPS device users are perhaps less likely to upgrade firmware than users of other mobile equipment like cell phones, and older devices might not even offer a method of updating the software.

 

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