University Testing GPS Interference

Tests aimed at learning whether ultra-wideband signals interfere with the Global Positioning System are underway at the University of Texas' Applied Research Laboratories.

Testing by the facility on the university's Austin campus is being funded by Time Domain, a company that manufactures ultra-wideband devices, but the Federal Communications Commission will analyze the data.

Miguel Cardoza, who heads up the Austin lab, said it is important for the university facility to conduct the tests.

"We have a serious commitment to GPS and to protecting the integrity of the GPS system. The testing will provide a baseline by which any organization can determine for itself the impact of [ultra-wideband] transmissions on GPS," he said.

Mary Lenz, a spokeswoman for the lab, said testing will be completed by the end of September and the results turned over to the FCC by mid-October. That's about two weeks before public comments are due to the FCC on a notice of proposed rulemaking for ultra-wideband that the agency issued last spring.

"The FCC will evaluate the test data as the agency considers proposals for deployment and regulation of UWB technology," Lenz said.

Ultra-wideband signals are bursts, or pulses, that cross the broadcast spectrum microseconds apart. Advocates say the signals pass through other frequencies without disruption. If true, that means a whole new broadcast system will be opened up to a range of communications - including radar systems that could locate people through walls.

Critics, including the commercial airlines industry and the Global Positioning Industry Council, fear the signals will interfere with the GPS and with transmissions used to navigate and land aircraft.

In July, these skeptical groups failed to get the FCC to revoke waivers it had previously given Time Domain, Zircon Corp. and U.S. Radar Inc. to sell ultra-wideband devices on a limited bases.

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