Nearly 80 Organizations Urge Congress To Halt Ligado Network

 - October 28, 2020, 1:40 PM

Nearly 80 organizations across aviation and other industries are appealing to key U.S. Senate leaders to step up pressure for the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to reconsider its approval for Ligado to use a band of spectrum that would bump against that used by aviation and others.

The organizations wrote Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Roger Wicker (R-Mississippi) and ranking member Maria Cantwell (D-Washington) this week that the FCC’s “flawed Ligado order…would upend decades of sound spectrum policy, negatively impact a significant cross-section of commercial, federal, and academic users who rely on the many different L-band satellite services, and threaten the safety of most Americans.”

The October 27 letter comes a few days after Ligado announced that it had secured $3.85 billion from new and existing investors to support its expansion of vendors for its L-Band communications network.

Ligado, formerly known as LightSquared, also noted that since it received unanimous approval from the FCC in April 2020, it has “made important strides to realize the full potential of its spectrum and progress toward bringing next-generation services to market.” This includes approval in June for its submissions into 3GPP—the industry forum that adopts technical specifications for the terrestrial spectrum—as well as support of global vendors such as Nokia, Intel, Samsung, and Sequans.

“Today is a great day, and now the fun begins," said Doug Smith, Ligado president and CEO, in announcing the fundraising support. “We’ve secured our license, we’ve raised the necessary capital, and we’re in a great position to work with the industry to get this spectrum deployed for 5G to support critical industries across the U.S.”

This progress has continued despite strong and wide opposition from commercial aviation and military users, who have appealed to the FCC—to little apparent avail so far—to reconsider its Ligado approval.

The letter to Wicker and Cantwell stressed, “L-Band satellite services are fundamental to the nation’s economy, national security, and continued technological leadership...Ligado’s proposed terrestrial network would fundamentally put the vital L-band satellite communications services—that in some instances serve as the only way to reach even the most remote regions of the world and are critical to safe aviation—at risk.” This includes the possibility of disruption of many GPS applications, the letter added.

“Regrettably,” the letter noted, “the Ligado Order is predicated on an insufficient appreciation for the real-world risks of harmful interference and the impacts that interference would have on our organizations, 14 federal agencies and departments, and the broad cross-section of the American people we serve.”

Signatories spanned aviation, trucking, agriculture, weather, communications, manufacturing, and other interests. Other Senate leaders, including Senate Armed Services Chairman James Inhofe (R-Oklahoma), have introduced measures to block the network.