FCC rejects GPS petition

The Federal Communications Commission Friday rejected a petition asking

for the withdrawal of waivers given to three companies to operate an experimental

communications technology that may interfere with the Global Positioning

System.

The FCC Office of Engineering and Technology granted waivers in June 1999

to U.S. Radar Inc., Time Domain Corp. and Zircon Corp. to allow limited

marketing of ultra-wideband devices. The petitioners — the U.S. Global Positioning

Industry Council, American Airlines Inc. and United Airlines Inc. — said

the office did not adequately take into account the impact of ultra-wideband

devices on GPS operations and that it failed to perform the technical studies

necessary to assess the safety risks to GPS.

The FCC decided not to reconsider the waivers because it believed the conditions

of the waivers were sufficient to prevent interference with GPS. In response

to the petition, the FCC stated that transmitters manufactured under the

waivers are required to comply with limits on radiated emissions similar

to those currently applied to millions of other unlicensed devices, such

as personal computers. The waivers also limit the number of devices that

can be sold under the waiver.

"These waivers will allow the commission to gain valuable experience with

ultra-wideband prior to adopting final rules," FCC chairman William Kennard

said in a separate statement.

The Global Positioning Industry Council and the airlines, which are concerned

about the potential interference the ultra-wideband devices may have on

GPS transmissions used for navigating and landing aircraft, among other

uses, will shift their attention to a broader ruling that would allow the

proliferation of ultra-wideband devices, said Raul Rodriguez, partner at

Leventhal, Lerman and Scenter, which represents the council.

The Transportation Department, the National Telecommunications and Information

Administration and private industry are studying the potential interference

with GPS and other technologies in response to the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking

the FCC issued this spring. Comments are due Oct. 30.

"The purpose of the filing was to draw to their attention that even though

there are conditions, there are holes in the conditions," Rodriguez said.

"We can't afford to risk having receivers that are interfered with."

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