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New Cellular Network Could Lead to Hundreds of Deaths, FAA Report Says

  • GPS in flight

    An illustration of a GPS satellite, silenting orbiting the Earth.Lockheed Martin

  • lightsquaredl ogo.jpg

Depending on whom you ask, Phil Falcone's new 4G wireless venture, LightSquared, is either going to kill planeloads of people -- or help save lives.

A Federal Aviation Administration study quietly released this month says the proposed venture -- which could make or break Falcone's rocky career -- may cost 794 lives in aviation accidents over 10 years with disruptions to satellite-aided navigation, according to Bloomberg News, which obtained a copy of the report.

LightSquared and its supporters, meanwhile, have been getting louder about how important their satellite system will be in coordinating enforcement and emergency response teams during natural disasters, like Hurricane Katrina.

"In an emergency, the last thing public safety workers should have to worry about is their ability to communicate with each other," said Sanjiv Ahuja, chairman and chief executive officer of LightSquared.

The talk of life and death at the hands of LightSquared comes as the debate escalates over whether to kill LightSquared over complaints that the upstart network will interfere with commercial navigation devices used by tractors and air-traffic controls.

Falcone's Harbinger Capital Management has invested close to $3 billion in LightSquared, which has promised to fix 99.5 percent of the interference problem.

The Federal Communications Commission, which has preliminarily approved the system, is currently taking comments from the public and is expected to rule on the issue later this year.