7/5/2011 4:00 PM
Deborah McAdams is the Executive Editor of TV Technology.
LightSquared is futzing with GPS receivers because GPS receivers aren't all that robust. GPS receivers are not all that robust because they didn't have to be before LightSquared, and now they're everywhere—flying airplanes, parking cars, and directing drivers everywhere into hayfields and Jersey barriers. Not too astonishingly, the GPS folks are kicking and screaming about LightSquared, a satellite broadband initiative started by some guy in New York who made a killing on subprime mortgages. Having purchased all the available soil on earth, he then bought the air.
This guy's trying to do what the Obama Administration is trying to do, which is develop a nationwide broadband network. If he is successful, he will make sufficient money to buy the sun. If the Obama Administration's effort is successful, its appointees will have enough money to visit the sun in their new sun cars, unless they are GPS-enabled. Then they might end up on the erstwhile planet Pluto, the new dust particle of astronomical hobnobbery.
And since the appointees get to decide between GPS and LightSquared, you have to wonder how this particular scenario is going to shake out. If they proceed consistently with their position on broadcast TV, they'll tell the GPS folks to move over and quit their whining, already. There's a new Innovator in Town, and his name is Broadband Phil Falcone. There are other ways to obtain directions, after all, including maps and passengers who think they know how to drive better than you.
The LightSquared-GPS showdown doesn't illustrate a spectrum shortage so much as it does an efficacy problem. The spectrum is getting more crowded because there's little if any pressure on device makers to create more efficient data transfer methods and more effective receivers. Meanwhile, broadcasters are transmitting HD and multicast streams in the same 6 MHz allotment that once carried no more than a single channel.