Latest News

Ligado’s 5G Plan May Get FCC Approval

By Rachel Jewett | April 16, 2020

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai is circulating a draft order to approve Ligado Network’s application to deploy a low-power terrestrial nationwide network in the L-band to support 5G and Internet of Things (IoT) services. 

Ligado has long sought this license modification, which the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) opposes because it could cause interference to GPS. DoD officials wrote in February FCC filings that the proposed Ligado license modification “would cause unacceptable operational impacts to the warfighter and adversely affect the military potential of GPS by negatively impacting GPS receivers.” 

Pai said in an April 16 announcement that the application would be approved with conditions to prevent interference, and that approving Ligado’s application is in the public interest to deploy 5G and IoT services. The Chairman did not say when the FCC could vote on the order.    

“Although I appreciate the concerns that have been raised by certain Executive Branch agencies, it is the Commission’s duty to make an independent determination based on sound engineering,” Pai said. “And based on the painstaking technical analysis done by our expert staff, I am convinced that the conditions outlined in this draft order would permit Ligado to move forward without causing harmful interference.” 

Satellite operator Iridium has fought Ligado’s plans for years, arguing that it would interfere with Iridium’s own transmissions. Before Pai’s announcement, Iridium CEO Matt Desch called on the FCC to not fall “for the 5G mirage that is Ligado.” 

“Here at Iridium we have spent billions of dollars and worked for 20 years to perfect a satellite service in satellite spectrum that’s proved critical in emergencies and disasters, all in reliance to the assumption that our government would ensure our operations would be protected. Ligado’s scattered low bandwidth impaired spectrum has nothing to do with the global race to 5G! A bunch of speculators want to make billions at the expense of our warfighters, supply chains, and aircraft navigation systems,” Desch said in a statement on Tuesday, April 14. 

In addition, J. David Grossman, the executive director of the GPS Innovation Alliance, called on the Commission to protect GPS receivers from interference ahead of the FCC announcement,

“We were thus pleased to see numerous federal agencies and departments, including the Department of Defense, reaffirm the importance of protecting GPS and indirectly the criticality of using an internationally established criteria, known as the ‘1 dB Standard,’ for protecting GPS,” Grossman said.

Pai said that if authorized, Ligado’s downlink operations would be at a power level a 99% reduction than what the company proposed in 2015. In addition, Ligado would be required to Ligado to protect adjacent band incumbents by reporting its base station locations and technical operating parameters to potentially affected government and industry stakeholders, monitor the transmit power of its base station sites, and respond to credible reports of interference. 

Ligado President and CEO Doug Smith applauded Pai’s announcement, and said that Ligado is committed to protecting GPS while delivering “highly secure and ultra-reliable communications to accelerate next-generation technologies and the Industrial Internet of Things.”