John Deere, a manufacturer of agricultural machinery, would not be the first company to come to mind when I think about a controversial issue related to the Global Positioning System… but in retrospect, it makes perfect sense. Large, automated farming operations rely heavily on precision (augmented) GPS.
And according to John Deere, it’s precisely those kinds of users who would be most heavily affected by the wireless data network proposed by a company named Lightsquared, permissions for which were mysteriously fast-tracked by the FCC in the United States last fall. Yes, it smelled fishy… On the other hand, the United States is not some corrupt third-world country and I was somewhat skeptical about the dramatic claims of interference. Weren’t radio devices, including GPS receivers, supposed to be equipped with sufficient frequency filters to ensure no interference from neighboring frequency bands, no matter what? Is it really valid to assume that just because a neighboring frequency band is reserved for mobile satellite applications, all transmissions in that band will be low power? Well, John Deere’s material answers my questions in full, and it seems that the concerns are valid, more valid even than initially thought. I wonder how the FCC will respond.