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AOC Says GPS Commercial Interface Could Impact National Security

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AOC Says GPS Commercial Interface Could Impact National Security

The Association of Old Crows (AOC), an international professional organisation that specialises in electronic warfare and tactical information operations, has publicised its caution that persistent sources of GPS interference could seriously affect the ability of the U.S. to both respond to crises of all levels, whether it be natural or manmade, and to operate critical infrastructure.

The AOC’s warning was seemingly ignited following a testing of LightSquared’s wireless broadband service proposal carried out of November of last year, which found that although there was no significant interference to cellular phone voice and text capabilities, there was significant disruption of all general purpose approved Global Positioning System (GPS) receivers.

Because GPS receivers are used throughout U.S. National infrastructures, in aviation flight safety systems, in emergency services and by private users, the AOC says that such interference could seriously impact the safety and security of the nation.

Confirmed: LightSquared Wireless Broadband Interferes With GPS

According to the AOC, the Federal Aviation Administration has confirmed that interference created by LightSquared’s use of EMS could affect safety-of-flight systems that warn pilots of approaching terrain, a disturbance which could of course have devastating effects.

There is nothing particularly surprising about the AOC’s warnings, as back in February 2011, had published the information about how the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) had offered conditional approval of LightsSquared’s plan to install up to 40,000 terrestrial cell phone base stations across the U.S. to increase its mobile satellite communications service, and that the LS plan could threaten interference with GPS systems.

According to the report from Aviation Week, the FCC had objected to LightSquared’s plans, with an official letter from the FCC stating:

“We are concerned about the possibility of interference with GPS services and looking forward to further testing. We are at a loss to know why [it was approved].”

When further testing was carried out in November of last year, the FCC’s anxieties were augmented and reiterated by the AOC, which recognises the serious impact that any source of persistent GPS interference would bring to the nation’s ability to operate critical infrastructure, whether it be transportation, utilities, telecommunications, emergency services or banking.

In delaying the response time of fire, police and emergency services, GPS interference could directly increase mortality rates as well as the extent and cost of structural damage.

In the case of a widespread natural disasters, interference to GPS would hamper the response by, according to VOC, all state and federal agencies. This would create an impact to local, state and national safety, which the VOC says is an unacceptable risk.


LightSquared Plans

In creating a state-of-the-art open wireless broadband network, LightSquared is intent on “changing broadband in America”.

The company’s opening testimonial on its website states that LightSquared:

“…will unleash the boundless opportunity of wireless broadband connectivity for all. We believe that it is time to transform the broadband industry to one that truly fosters innovation, creativity, and freedom of choice – with limitless and unimaginable possibilities.”

The Association of Old Crows believes that LightSquared’s pursuit is proper in a purely commercial sense, yet “wholly unsupportable in the broader operational sense.”

Although the AOC supports the tests findings, it recommends that the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), the U.S. President’s principle adviser on telecommunications and information policy, requests that the FCC should not only withhold authorization of LightSquared’s wireless broadband service, but should also partially underwrite LightSquared’s efforts to submit for retest a new design that does not interfere with the GPS system, since the originally licensed frequencies were unusable.


The FCC Has Failed to Remain Proactive in Heading Off Problems

In June of last year, the mounting evidence of interference with GPS satellites from a proposed broadband communications network attracted an inquiry from the U.S. Congress, with members of the House of Representatives sending a letter to the FCC, urging the agency to take a more ‘proactive’ role in warding off potential problems that may arise with LightSquared technology.

The letter, which was signed by 66 Democrat and Republican lawmakers, was published on the National Business Aviation Association website, and read:

“We write to express concern about a conditional waiver that the International Bureau granted in January 2011 after an abbreviated process. This action has serious implications for all GPS technologies, and couple negatively impact millions of Americans.”

The fact that the Association of Old Crows is now, over half a year later, repeating the recommendation to the FCC that it withhold authorization of LightSquared’s wireless broadband service, proves that the FCC has done little in taking a more ‘proactive’ role to head off potential problems that interference with GPS technology could have on millions of Americans.

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