Wireless competition

Today’s revolution is the first ever use of satellite coverage integrated with ground-based technology to create nationwide access to high-speed wireless. This new broadband network will be a cornerstone of the foundation on which our future economy grows.

This expansion of American infrastructure is being led with private sector investment. Over the next eight years LightSquared will invest $14 billion of private capital in developing this network which will support over 15,000 jobs in each of the five years of the buildout.

Once complete it will increase capacity, competition and choice in the wireless industry and provide much-needed high-speed broadband access to consumers, businesses, healthcare facilities and tribal communities throughout rural America. It will also meet critical public sector needs by supporting seamless communications in times of crises when existing networks may not function properly. 

Unfortunately the development of this new network is being frustrated by interests trying to close the door of innovation behind themselves.  Unless a cooperative path on development can be maintained with the government playing the role of neutral arbiter we risk losing out on this vital technological advancement.

Thirty years ago the Global Positioning System (GPS) dramatically improved the way the world communicates by using broadband spectrum to signal precise location information. However some receivers manufactured to capture these signals also capture the new broadband network’s signals creating the possibility of interference. The GPS industry has used this issue as a basis for a campaign to block further development of this new network.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has supported the development of the new 4G-LTE network integrated with satellite coverage as a way of significantly expanding broadband access across the country and has noted that the GPS industry knew about the network for almost a decade but did nothing to adapt its receivers. Still the FCC has tried to support the continued development of both systems in the hopes of seeing them coexist.

The FCC created a working group of representatives from the GPS industry, wireless operators and government agencies to test for possible interference issues and identify ways to resolve them.  While both sides have participated in the FCC-led process, the GPS industry has continued to expand its campaign to block the new network altogether. 

If the GPS industry succeeds in blocking the development of the first ever nationwide 4G-LTE network integrated with satellite coverage it will be a huge set back for innovative efforts to increase productivity and further grow our economy to create jobs. We have successfully integrated different technologies before and we can do it again.

Rather than using litigation and political influence to resolve technical challenges, we should once again rely on market forces in combination with pro-growth government policies. In this case that means both industries should commit themselves to work together with federal agencies under the FCC’s leadership to assess any potential problems and identify solutions. 

In a highly competitive 21st century global economy we simply cannot afford to stifle innovation in the name of protecting the status quo. We must find ways of successfully integrating each technological revolution with the next. 

Sanjiv Ahuja is the chairman and CEO of LightSquared.