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Surfin’: Got GPS? Maybe Not For Long!

04/08/2011

By Stan Horzepa, WA1LOU
Contributing Editor

This week, your Surfin’ conductor wears a worry-wart about losing a reliable friend.

GPS (Global Positioning System) has become an integral part of ham radio, as well as our culture. In the good old days, GPS was a stand-alone unit that we carried in our backpacks and purses, or mounted on our dashboards. My first GPS was a Garmin portable dash-mountable unit that I used for APRS (Automatic Packet Reporting System) hiking and mobiling. Like me, lots of hams became acquainted with GPS via the APRS route.

Today, GPS is built right into our ham radios, as well as our portable phones, vehicles and just about everything else. GPS is no longer limited to use by techies; “everyone” is using GPS and everyone has a huge investment in the technology.

So along comes something that may wreck havoc on our trusty friend, the GPS. A new nationwide broadband wireless network has received the “okay” from the FCC to begin building a system that will use the airwaves next to those used for GPS.

GPS manufacturers believe that strong signals from this new system could jam GPS and make it next to useless for navigation. A fix could cost billions and no one has figured out who will be responsible for paying for that fix. Meanwhile, the FCC claims that it will block the implementation of the new network unless there are assurances that it will not interfere with GPS.

Since the FCC has already let the horse out of the barn, I am not getting warm fuzzies that all will end well. So stayed tuned!

I have read about this potential threat all over the Internet. Tom Barron, K6JRA, sent me this link to an in-a-nutshell article on the subject that the Connecticut Post recently published. Here is GPS World's recent take on the matter and here’s another.

Until next time, keep on surfin’!

Editor’s note: Stan Horzepa, WA1LOU, is worried. To contact Stan, send e-mail or add comments to the WA1LOU blog.



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