Open-Access Nationwide 4G Plan Derailed by 75% GPS Failure?

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Tobias Schwarz / REUTERS

The idea of a nationwide, open-access wireless 4G broadband network may be a great thing in theory, but in practice, it turns out that there may be one rather big problem with it–especially for anyone who uses a GPS system. Plans for a $14 billion U.S.-wide network hit a snag when testing revealed that the performance of three quarters of GPS receivers were affected negatively by the signal.

A company called LightSquared announced plans for the 4G network in July last year, calling it “the first truly open and net neutral network,” causing concern within not only the GPS industry–which was concerned with the idea of LightSquared’s projected 40,000 towers interfering with their signals–but also the Department of Defense and Department of Transportation, both of whom wrote a letter to the FCC asking for an investigation into how badly GPS signals would be affected if LightSquared’s plans went ahead.

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Testing was eventually carried out between October 31 and November 4 this year, and showed that 69 out of 92 GPS receivers tested “experienced harmful interference” if within 100 meters of a LightSquared base station, according to a report leaked to Bloomberg News. The report went on to say that LightSquared’s signals cause “harmful interference to majority of GPS receivers tested,” adding that “no additional testing is required to confirm harmful interference exists.”

LightSquared isn’t taking the leak well; in an email to Bloomberg, EVP Martin Harriman said that the leaked report “attempts to draw an inaccurate conclusion to negatively influence the future of LightSquared and narrowly serve the business interests of the GPS industry.” As opposed to the business interests of LightSquared, of course…

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Graeme McMillan is a reporter at TIME. Find him on Twitter at @Graemem or on Facebook at Facebook/Graeme.McMillan. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.