Technology Talk


National WiFi System


Plans for a first-ever national WiFi system were nixed when the FCC found evidence that the network could jam GPS-enabled devices.

The company that endeavored to create the first-ever nation-wide system, LightSquared, transmits on a frequency that is close to the frequency used by manufacturers of GPS devices, such as a personal navigation device or systems for aircraft control.

Presently, LightSquared is not allowed to operate the network at all. Although the FCC originally granted LightSquared the approval for building the network, permissions were denied after the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) found the signal to interfere with these devices.


The NTIA has found that the signal broadcasted by LightSquared is stronger than the corresponding signal for these personal devices. This means the signals can get crossed, and the LightSquared signal can actually draw the GPS-enabled devices to it. This would result in the GPS being unable to connect to its own network.

Since the GPS devices were designed to pick up weak signals from satellites in space, the stronger signal from LightSquared could take over.

Currently, the NTIA feels that it would be too expensive for the existing GPS equipment to be replaced. The NTIA says that technology may be available in the future to help with this problem, but no such technology exists now.

LightSquared has checked into making adjustments to its own network, but the available adjustments could mean more than a billion dollars in cost. And, even with such a large amount of money spent, there would be no guarantee that all the problems would be fixed.


As part of the original plan, LightSquared would have sold directly to suppliers such as Verizon Wireless and AT&T, Best Buy and Leap Wireless.

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