The battle between the GPS industry and LightSquared 4G-LTE network continues

The battle between the GPS industry and a proposed 4G-LTE network backed by ground towers and satellites that may conflict with GPS signals continues, according to an article published recently by Agri-Pulse.

LightSquared is dedicated to bringing fast broadband service with minimal delay in data transfer speed. To do so, it launched a satellite in November 2010 that could give all users signal regardless of cellular range.  This all sounds like an answer to a prayer, especially for rural residents, who frequently experienced dropped calls and other issues associated with a lack of towers and limited capacity.

The conflict arises when the faster mobile 4G service essentially out-performs the satellite sending signals to GPS devices.  If the GPS signal gets interrupted and the GPS device doesn’t receive a service, it could affect data capture in the tractor.

For example, when I shared this story with my marketing team, one of the girls had experienced this problem first-hand six years ago when she was interning with a regional cooperative in northwest Iowa.  She was given the task of mapping field boundaries on 11,000 acres within seven days.  Due to technical difficulties, it became an extremely daunting task.  Her territory was in a very rural area, and the GPS device often lost the signal.  She would have to retrace the field boundary with a four-wheeler on which the GPS device was mounted.

While the GPS satellite system has greatly improved since that summer mapping field boundaries, this is an excellent example to help illustrate what can happen and to help explain why the GPS industry is concerned about how its customers will be impacted by the 4G satellite.  Just imagine the consequences of the GPS signal getting interrupted when fertilizer is being applied or yields are being calculated!

On the other hand, it’s easy to understand why LightSquared executives are upset that their project is being given the red light – or at least the yellow flag – when they’re nearly ready to launch.  They’ve had permission since 2005 to build the 4G network, yet no concerns were raised until the eleventh hour.  In the meantime, they’ve invested millions of dollars and countless hours on R&D.

No wonder the battle continues to wage.  Let’s hope they find common ground.  Figuring out how to protect the GPS signal’s viability for farmers while providing faster, more consistent mobile phone service would certainly benefit all who live in rural America!