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Call for Ligado’s 5G Proposal to be Rejected

Credit: Ligado Networks
Credit: Ligado Networks

By The Maritime Executive 04-18-2020 06:38:00

The Chair of the U.S. House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Peter DeFazio (D-OR) and Committee Member Rep. John Garamendi (D-CA) have called on the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to reject Ligado Networks’ application for a license modification to facilitate 5G and Internet of Things services in the U.S.

They cite risks to the reliability and function of Global Positioning System (GPS) radio navigation signals, which use frequencies near those proposed by Ligado for its 5G functionality.

The letter was sent to FCC Chair Ajit Pai on April 17 after he circulated a draft order on the application. In circulating his draft, Pai said: “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. 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. For example, the draft order would authorize downlink operations at a power level that represents a greater than 99 percent reduction from what Ligado proposed in its 2015 application.”

In recent years, Ligado has amended its application to significantly reduce the power levels of its base stations from 32 dBW to 9.8 dBW (a reduction of 99.3 percent). Ligado has also committed to providing a significant (23 megahertz) guard-band using its own licensed spectrum to further separate its terrestrial base station transmissions from neighboring operations in the Radionavigation-Satellite Service allocation. As such, Ligado is now only seeking terrestrial use of the 1526-1536 MHz, 1627.5-1637.5 MHz, and 1646.5-1656.5 MHz bands.  

The Order is conditioned to reflect these technical requirements. It also requires Ligado to protect adjacent band incumbents by reporting its base station locations and technical operating parameters to potentially affected government and industry stakeholders prior to commencing operations, continuously monitoring the transmit power of its base station sites, and complying with procedures and actions for responding to credible reports of interference, including rapid shutdown of operations where warranted. 

In response, Members DeFazio and Garamendi wrote: “Approval of the Ligado Networks’ application would result in unacceptable interference with GPS signals according to numerous government studies – including information sent only last week to the FCC from the National Telecommunications and Information Administration. Furthermore, improper resolution of issues with the 5.9GHz spectrum would limit the Nation’s ability to establish new innovations in intelligent transportation systems, such as automated vehicles, that could eliminate tens of thousands of highway deaths each year.”

The Members believe it makes little sense to risk the future reliability and performance of GPS especially as the U.S. economy and national security “become ever more reliant on accurate, precise and reliable position, navigation and timing transmissions.”

The Department of Transport has also expressed serious concerns with Ligado’s license application., and last week, DeFazio and Garamendi urged Department Secretary Elaine Chao, whose department is the lead federal agency for civil Positioning, Navigation, and Timing requirements, to share previously undisclosed correspondence, studies and analyses on the matter with Congress. 

Following the draft, Ligado Networks' President and Chief Executive Officer, Doug Smith, commended Pai for his leadership and vision. “The central importance of mid-band - especially our lower mid-band - to 5G is well-known. As Ericsson and Nokia technical studies on our proposed network deployment have shown, the superior propagation characteristics of our spectrum will improve mobile 5G coverage - both outdoor and indoor - and in doing so, accelerate the deployment of 5G networks. Ligado is committed to the twin goals of protecting GPS while delivering highly secure and ultra-reliable communications to accelerate next-generation technologies and the Industrial Internet of Things.”