FCC Approves Ligado to Deploy L-Band Network Despite DHS Concerns
Monday, April 20, 2020 | Comments

The FCC approved with conditions Ligado’s application to deploy a low-power terrestrial nationwide network in the L-band despite a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) recommendation to deny the license.

The FCC said the new Ligado license will primarily support 5G and internet of things (IoT) services. The order approving Ligado’s application was adopted without dissent and will promote more efficient and effective use of spectrum and ensure that adjacent band operations, including GPS, are protected from harmful interference, the FCC said.

In the order approving Ligado’s application, the FCC included conditions to ensure that incumbents would not experience harmful interference. For example, the commission mandated that Ligado provide a 23-megahertz guard band using its own licensed spectrum to separate its terrestrial base station transmissions from neighboring operations in the radionavigation-satellite service allocation. Moreover, Ligado is required to limit the power levels of its base stations to 9.8 dBW, a reduction of 99.3% from the power levels proposed in Ligado’s 2015 application.

The order 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.

Both DHS and the GPS Innovation Alliance (GPSIA) released statements outlining their concerns. DHS said that if the FCC moves forward with its proposed action on Ligado, DHS will work with its partners to ensure procedures are in place to identify interference with GPS and rapidly implement mitigation measures while supporting the domestic deployment of 5G.

“DHS recommended the FCC deny the Ligado license and remains concerned that an approval creates a high degree of uncertainty for our public and private sector partners, many of whom, along with the departments of Homeland Security, Defense and Transportation, rely on precise and uninterrupted positioning, navigation and timing (PNT) data from the GPS to ensure the security and resilience of their infrastructure," DHS said in a statement. "Our critical infrastructure partners across the public and private sectors have similar dependence on PNT and GPS for the security and resilience of their operations."

“The GPS Innovation Alliance (GPSIA) is deeply disappointed by today's decision, which appears to ignore the well-documented views of the expert agencies charged with preserving the integrity of GPS, specifically on the critical issue of what constitutes harmful interference to users of global navigation satellite systems (GNSS)," said GPSIA Executive Director J. David Grossman. "GPSIA has consistently advocated for adoption of the 1 dB standard as the only reliable mechanism that provides the predictability and certainty to ensure the continuation of the GPS success story, with the support of the Department of Defense, the Department of Transportation and numerous other federal agencies. The 1 dB standard for RF-based services is critical for GNSS. The FCC’s press release refers to conditions placed on Ligado's application to prevent harmful interference, and GPSIA and its members intend to carefully review the details of today's order while continuing to vigorously advocate for promoting, protecting and enhancing GPS."

“I thank my colleagues for coming together on a bipartisan basis to support Ligado’s application,” said FCC Chairman Ajit Pai. “The vote at the commission reflects the broad, bipartisan support that this order has received, from Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Attorney General William Barr on the one hand to Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia and Congresswoman Doris Matsui of California on the other. This vote is another step forward for American leadership in 5G and advanced wireless services.”

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