LightSquared, Inc, based in Reston Virginia, filed for bankruptcy May 14th in Federal Bankruptcy Court in Manhattan. Listing assets of $4.48 billion and debt of $2.29 billion as of Feb. 29, LightSquared says it intends to use bankruptcy protection to continue in its quest to build out a 4G wireless network. Its plan has been to utilize satellite spectrum for terrestrial signals, but has been fervently opposed by users of satellite GPS systems.

LightSquared purchased a satellite company in order to obtain the license for specific frequencies of the radio spectrum which are adjacent to those used by the satellites that provide the signals for millions of GPS devices in North America. They petitioned the Federal Communications Commission for permission to use the frequencies under license, and were nearly able to achieve this goal. GPS manufacturers and user groups were alarmed and a groundswell of opposition caused the FCC to reconsider the application. The Coalition to Save Our GPS was formed to oppose the petition.

Studies were conducted which showed that significant interference would occur with the new network. The signal strength of GPS signals is extremely weak compared to the power levels that a terrestrial 4G network would use, and there was a very high probability that it would drown out the GPS signals in many areas. Congress became involved, and legislated that the FCC could not grant the application unless LightSquared could prove that it was not going to cause problems with GPS. Subsequently, the FCC denied the petitions.

Apparently, the battle has not yet ended. With bankruptcy protection, LightSquared may eventually prevail, unless GPS users and manufacturers remain steadfast and vigilant. Nerds in the Wood supports the Coalition to Save Our GPS and urges everyone to investigate the issue for themselves.