FCC Rejects GPS Petition

WASHINGTON (07/18/2000) - The U.S. 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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