April 11, 2011


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 could be carried in backpacks and purses, or mounted on  dashboards. As their first GPS, many hams used a Garmin portable dash-mountable unit for APRS (Automatic Packet Reporting System) while hiking or mobiling. A lot of hams became acquainted with GPS via the APRS route.  [In addition to assisting "on the air", GPS has saved my rear end "in the air" on more than one occasion! - W1WH]

Today, GPS is built right into many ham radios, as well as portable phones, vehicles and just about everything else. GPS is no longer limited to use by techies; everyone uses 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 approval from the FCC to begin building a system that will use frequencies adjacent 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.

This potential threat is now making the rounds all over the Internet. An in-a-nutshell article on the subject was recently published by the Connecticut Post recently published. Here is GPS World's recent take on the matter and here’s another.

---thanks to Stan Horzepa, WA1LOU and ARRL