Washington, DC, June 23, 2011 – National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) President and CEO Ed Bolen today submitted written testimony to Congress underscoring the need to protect the viability of the Global Positioning System (GPS) technology relied upon by countless aviators.
Bolen was among several industry leaders expressing concerns to members of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee's subcommittee on Aviation and subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation.
The two subcommittees jointly held a hearing today to examine an emerging technology that threatens to degrade or disrupt GPS signals – a threat that has raised alarm among aviation groups, military officials, and federal policymakers alike.
The concern stems from a plan by wireless broadband provider LightSquared to deploy new 4G communications technology, utilizing frequencies adjacent to bandwidth used for GPS signals. Recent tests conducted by LightSquared throughout the southwestern U.S. have revealed the potential for severe interference with signals from GPS satellites. Those findings support data from industry tests of the technology, including a study by electronics manufacturer Garmin International.
"For more than three decades, the GPS, as administered by the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD), has been integral part of our nation’s infrastructure," Bolen’s testimony noted. "We have been carefully monitoring the field testing of the LightSquared system and initial results do indicate the potential for interference with the satellite transmissions to hundreds of millions of GPS receivers.
"Today, more than 60 percent of the 11,000 business aircraft operating in the U.S. are equipped with various GPS capabilities required for instrument approaches at over 5000 airports in the U.S.”
“Our [NBAA] members are not opposed to the development and deployment of new or improved technology systems like LightSquared – as long as it is conclusively proven that it will not result in radio interference with GPS systems or pose any threat to the global aviation transportation system."
Today's House subcommittee hearing comes as members from both chambers of congress are expressing concern over potential GPS interference. Members of the House and Senate letters to the Federal Communications Commission, asking the agency to take a closer look at potential interference from the LightSquared network.
Additionally, the House Agriculture Committee this month included language in an annual agriculture appropriations bill acknowledging potential threats to GPS used by farmers, rescue workers, and forest firefighters to the FY2012 Agriculture Appropriations Bill. The language goes on to direct the U.S. Department of Agriculture "to ensure the FCC is aware of these concerns and to work with other Federal agencies, such as the Department of Defense and the Department of Transportation, to address them."
"We greatly appreciate these strong Congressional expressions of interest and concern about the safety and efficiency of the GPS network and the potential impacts of LightSquared on the nation’s GPS safety and security infrastructure," Bolen's testimony said.
Concerns about GPS interference have also been raised on a global stage. In a June 13 letter to U.S. officials, the International Civil Aviation Organization expressed the organization's "grave concern" over the potential for LightSquared's technology to disrupt or degrade GPS signals.