Imagine the frustration in Yuma, Ariz., last year when garage door remote controls just plain stopped working.
The receivers on the openers were overwhelmed when a nearby Marine Corps air station moved its radio traffic to a new spectrum — a wavelength close to the one used by civilians to heft open those doors.
Luckily, a $2 jury rig to most openers fixed the problem. But in a conflict between military necessity and consumer convenience, there was never much doubt which side would have to tinker with its gear.
Now a radio war is brewing between two large commercial interests. It’s far less clear which side might budge.
One side is on the continuing quest to increase wireless broadband for your cell phone, laptop or tablet.
It’s come up with a new technology combination that adds a satellite — in contrast to using cell phone towers only — to give you almost unlimited wireless coverage. And it brings fresh competition to curb high-speed broadband prices.
But that new technology has come smack up against satellite-guided navigation for your GPS device. The catch is that when the new signals move in, they’ll crowd out GPS traffic.
The GPS industry fears its devices could suffer the fate of those Arizona garage door openers — but without the simple fix.
So what might be a boon to cell carriers like Overland Park-based Sprint Nextel could mean trouble for GPS companies like Olathe’s Garmin Ltd.
“It’s not just soccer moms trying to find their way to the game,” said a Garmin spokesman. “It’s emergency response people, the military, all sorts of things.”
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