Wednesday, June 30, 2010

GPS Interference

A week ago I received a Yaesu VX-8GR VHF/UHF APRS hand held transceiver with GPS. The transceiver performs as expected except in one extremely annoying respect - its GPS takes a very long time to get an initial fix on its position after switching on the radio. It cannot get a fix from inside the shack at all. By contrast, my HTC smartphone will get a fix in a couple of minutes whilst sitting in its charger cradle on the shack desk. Or at least, it did.

This morning I noticed on that the last reported position of my smartphone, G4ILO-10, was somewhere in Somerset. I started the APRSISCE application with the intent of "bringing it back home" by sending a position report with the correct location. But after ten minutes the phone had not managed to get a fix.

I switched off all my radio equipment in case one of them was an interference source, and rebooted the phone, and eventually after several more minutes it obtained an accurate fix. I am beginning to suspect that something is interfering with GPS reception in the area of my house.

If you Google "GPS interference" you will find links to numerous articles and research papers raising concerns about what is apparently an increasingly common problem. One article states that a directional television receiving antenna widely available in the consumer market contains an amplifier which can emit spurious radiation in the GPS L1 frequency band with sufficient power to interfere with GPS reception at distances of 200 meters or more. Other potential interference sources include spurious outputs from TV transmitters.

Another website states that "We are seeing increasing evidence of GPS interference and also apparent erratic behaviour (e.g. mis-reported location)" and provides a form for reporting cases of interference. This page provides links to two reports on the issue which unfortunately require registration in order to access them.

Have other amateur GPS users experienced difficulty in receiving the satellites or an increase in inaccurate position reports? For many GPS applications the effects of this could have rather greater impact than a radio ham's inability to report his position to Perhaps the US administration was rather hasty in its decision to decommission Loran.
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