GPS Frequency Sharing Back on ITU Agenda

BOSTON (05/23/2000) - Member states of the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) have reversed course and decided to consider spectrum sharing in the band used by the U.S.- developed Global Positioning System (GPS). The move once again raises concerns about possible interference with signals from GPS satellites, used by airlines and others around the world for navigation.

On one of the first days of the month-long World Radio Conference (WRC) in Istanbul, Turkey, ITU members had agreed to table a European Union-backed resolution on sharing the 1,675- to 1,710-MHz bands used by GPS with mobile satellite system operators. The ITU issued a statement at that time that delegates to the WRC had agreed with research showing problems with band-sharing were "undisputed" (see story).

However, at a meeting of a WRC Committee last week, enough delegates disagreed with that position to put GPS frequency sharing back on the conference agenda.

The ITU depicted this as a procedural disagreement and not a substantive issue, noting it's back on the table only until agreement can be reached on whether such a discussion belongs on the conference agenda.

The conference is scheduled to end June 2.

The U.S. Department of Defense, which has spent $14 billion on Global Positioning, argues that spectrum sharing could lead to degradation of GPS signals. The International Civil Aeronautics Organization agrees with the DoD, viewing GPS signals as a safety-of-life issue.

Richard Langley, a GPS consultant at the University of New Brunswick, Fredericton, viewed the wrangling as "a bit of posturing.... My guess is the EU will give up when they can find some (mobile satellite system spectrum) someplace else."

GPS policy-makers at the Departments of Defense and Transportation didn't return calls asking for their comments by press time.

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