Ligado Networks is tired of waiting for the Federal Communications Commission to decide on modifications to its existing spectrum licenses to support 5G services for industrial and commercial users, and it yesterday filed a petition under Section 7 of the Communications Act aimed at pressing the FCC to make a decision quickly.
Ligado wants a modification to its existing licenses, which cover 40 megahertz in the 1.6 GHz band, adjacent to some high-precision GPS users. In 2015, Ligado asked the FCC for permission to use a combination of satellite and terrestrial technologies to provide wireless services. In its petition filing, it reiterated that it plans to deliver “first-of-its-kind, seamless satellite and terrestrial connectivity enabled by this spectrum to deliver 5G and Internet of Things services to industrial customers via custom private networks.”
Now, Ligado is taking FCC Chairman AJit Pai’s agency at its word that it wants to “breathe life” into Section 7 of the Communications Act, which says that the FCC must determine within one year whether a new product or service is in the public interest and take action accordingly. In 2018, the FCC put out a notice of proposed rulemaking focused on implementing additional guidance for Section 7 to speed FCC actions along.
Much of what has dragged out the Ligado request has been concerns by companies and users which rely on global positioning satellites that the change in use would interfere with GPS/GNSS. Ligado says that it has addressed those concerns, adding that some of the arguments against its license modification have no technical merit.
Ligado argued in its petition filings that its record of submissions to the FCC “contain the specific operational parameters requested by the major GPS device manufacturers to address their concerns, including creation of a 23 megahertz buffer between Ligado and GNSS … [and]evidence that the spectrum plan will protect certified aviation devices, that other GPS devices will not experience harmful interference, that Ligado will repair or replace as necessary any Government GPS device, and that other concerns brought by competitors have no engineering basis.”
“The FCC really has no reason not to act to modify our licenses,” said Valerie Green, Ligado’s chief legal officer, on a call with reporters on Tuesday.
Company CEO Doug Smith said in a statement that the company has bent over backwards “to comply with government testing, requests, process and more process” but that its application “remains trapped in a web of government delays and indecision. The result is prime mid-band spectrum languishing at a time when U.S. leadership in 5G simply can’t afford it.”
Ligado also argued in its filing that a decision needs to be made in a timely manner because of another FCC action: that of its NPRM introduced last month, which would reallocate a slice of 5 megahertz of neighboring spectrum at 1675-1680 MHz.
Smith issued a statement at the time, praising the FCC’s NPRM on that spectrum reallocation and indicating his company’s readiness to support the use of the band for 5G.
“Reallocating this 5 MHz band to shared terrestrial use is an essential component of Ligado’s spectrum plan to make 40 MHz of lower mid-band frequencies available for 5G applications,” Smith said. He added, “We are prepared to fully invest in this band as well as in our 35 MHz of licensed L-band spectrum to advance next-generation technologies and ensure industries across every part of the country benefit from the promise of 5G.” Ligado holds licenses in the L-band at 1500 MHz to 1700 MHz.
However, in its petition filing, Ligado was a bit more restrained, saying: “In light of Ligado’s access to the adjacent spectrum at 1670-1675 MHz, the company is an obvious motivated bidder in an auction for the 1675-1680 MHz band, but as the company’s auction experts recently made clear to the staff, the company can participate in that auction in a robust way only if the license modification applications are approved.”
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