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Could 4G Wireless Plans Interfere With GPS?


A senior Air Force space official recently warned of the potential threat of 4G wireless service interfering with Global Positioning System transmissions.

One broadband company in particular, LightSquared, has received temporary permission to build 40,000 ground-based transmitters "with exponentially more power, ones that transmit significantly closer to GPS receivers as compared to our transmitters that are 22,000 miles away in space," said Lt. Gen. Michael Basla, the vice chief of Air Force Space Command during a cyberwarfare conference in Maryland. "So now we have a physics problem and a huge spectrum concern with potential GPS interference."

This has the potential to disrupt not only GPS-based navigation but also the world's satellite based timing signals on which "our networks, banking systems and power grids rely," said Basla.

4G wireless is meant to provide IP-based broadband web service to the world's mobile device users; this includes everything from laptops and tablets to smartphones, and yeah, it's an understatement to say that this market is going to be huge.

The government is apparently looking into the issue to determine if the company can deploy this service without interfering with GPS signals, according to the three-star. "Believe me, I hope that is the case for both economic and operational reasons," added Basla.

Meanwhile, the ageing GPS constellation itself is doing quite well due to the fact that it has recently been expanded to 24 satellites and is starting to be upgraded with the new Block IIF satellites.

"The GPS constellation is a model on the incremental capability for our space domain, we have replacements in the pipeline," said Basla. "Our GPS constellation continues to exceed the requirements that our nation has placed on us."


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