On Monday, the Federal Communications Commission unanimously approved Ligado’s application to deploy a low-power terrestrial nationwide network in the L-Band that will primarily support 5G and Internet of Things services. The order is said to have been adopted without dissent and will promote more efficient and effective use of the nationwide spectrum resources and ensure that adjacent band operations, including the Global Positioning System (GPS), are protected from harmful interference.
“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 Senator 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.”
However, the feeling of support and approval is not shared by the Department of Defense (DoD). In a statement released a day after the FCC vote, the DoD said that it is still "concerned" over the decision's potential to interfere with GPS security:
“The Department of Homeland Security 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 Global Positioning System (GPS) to ensure the security and resilience of their infrastructure. 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.
If the FCC moves forward with its proposed action on Ligado, we will work with our 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 will continue to work to manage risk to GPS receivers and promote the responsible use of PNT, in accordance with the President’s Executive Order.”
In approving Ligado's request, the FCC included conditions. One such being that Ligado " provide a significant (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."
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.