Ligado sues U.S. government, says DoD is using its spectrum illegally

Ligado Networks has been involved in a dispute against the Department of Defense (DoD) and the GPS industry for years. Now, Ligado is taking the matter to court. It alleges the U.S. government misappropriated Ligado’s exclusively licensed spectrum to support secret DoD systems that have been using the spectrum without permission.

Ligado wants to use spectrum it owns in the L band for terrestrial 5G services. The spectrum includes the 1526-1536 MHz, 1627.5-1637.5 MHz, and 1646.5-1656.5 MHz. But the DoD and major GPS companies have said that use of the spectrum could cause interference to their receivers. Ligado has said it’s their own fault that DoD and GPS receivers aren’t fine-tuned enough to stay in their own lane and avoid picking up interference from Ligado’s usage of its licensed spectrum.

Last year, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine published a report that mostly agreed with Ligado, and yet the company still hasn’t gotten permission to use its spectrum.


But after years of working through the Federal Communications Commission to get access to its spectrum, on October 12, Ligado filed a lawsuit in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims against the United States, the Defense Department (DoD), the Commerce Department (DoC) and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), seeking compensation for the government’s taking of its spectrum.

“The DoD misled the FCC, Congress and many others in its unconstitutional taking of our property and ongoing obstruction of our operations and, in doing so, deprived millions of Americans from access to much needed 5G services,” said Doug Smith, CEO of Ligado, in a statement. “The FCC, the federal agency with exclusive authority over the use and licensing of spectrum, made its final decision in 2020 after a thorough and exhaustive public review process. Since then, we have worked diligently and in good faith with other government agencies to try and reach a fair resolution that would allow us to deploy our spectrum or be compensated appropriately. However, at this stage, DoD’s, DoC’s and NTIA’s unlawful actions have left us no choice but to pursue litigation to defend our interests.”

Ratcheting up the animosity further, Ligado alleges the DoD’s claims about spectrum interference “are a pretext” to conceal secret Pentagon systems that depend on Ligado’s spectrum.

According to Ligado, multiple former and current senior government officials have acknowledged that the DoD wants Ligado’s spectrum for its own, undisclosed purposes, and that DoD’s activities cannot co-exist with Ligado’s authorized use of its spectrum.

“High ranking U.S. government officials have acted deliberately to deprive an American company of its rightfully licensed property,” stated Ivan Seidenberg, chairman of Ligado’s Board of Managers.

Its Complaint states that the DoD, DoC and NTIA have totally deprived Ligado of all the economic benefits that it could have expected from using and developing its exclusively allocated and licensed spectrum for terrestrial services

Ligado is asking the court for “just compensation in an amount to be determined at trial for its past, present, and future taking of Ligado’s rights.”