FCC rejects GPS petition

The Federal Communications Commission this month 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 imposed on them were sufficient to prevent interference with

GPS. In response to the petition, the FCC stated that transmitters manufactured

under the waivers must 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 waivers.

"These waivers will allow the commission to gain valuable experience

with ultra-wideband prior to adopting final rules," said FCC Chairman William

Kennard in a separate statement.

Safety Alert

The Global Positioning Industry Council and the airlines — which are

concerned about the potential ability of the ultra-wideband devices to interfere

with GPS transmissions used for navigating and landing aircraft, among other

activities — will now focus their efforts on blocking a broader ruling that

would allow the proliferation of ultra-wideband devices, said Raul Rodriguez,

a partner at Leventhal, Lerman and Scenter, which represents the council.

The Transportation Department, the National Telecommunications and Information

Administration and private industry are studying ultra-wideband's potential

interference with GPS and other technologies in response to a Notice of

Proposed Rulemaking that the FCC issued this spring. Comments are due Oct.

30.

"The purpose of the [petition] 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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