Ligado taps Ericsson, Sequans to build satellite-based IoT network

Ligado said it inked deals with Ericsson and Sequans to build equipment for the satellite component of its planned network. Ligado said the companies would build equipment for LTE-M and NB-IoT network technologies running in Ligado’s 40 MHz of nationwide spectrum between 1500 MHz and 1700 MHz, the so-called L-Band.

Ligado described LTE-M and NB-IoT as 5G technologies, and said the move would help the United States “win the race to 5G.”

Those comments are likely geared toward wrapping Ligado’s network build-out efforts in the U.S. government’s 5G push, an effort that involves reworking network build-out regulations and freeing up additional spectrum in order to encourage private companies to build 5G services ahead of China. However, there is some debate as to whether LTE-M and NB-IoT network technology can be considered part of the 5G standard considering such technologies were primarily designed as an addition to the existing LTE standard. Indeed, AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile have all already launched LTE-M and NB-IoT networks nationwide mostly using their existing LTE spectrum and operations.

Nonetheless, Ligado promised that its new agreements with Ericsson and Sequans would allow Ligado to “to take advantage of the broad ecosystem that is developing around LTE-M and NB-IoT specifications” and that the companies “aim to conduct several 5G demonstrations in the near future.”

It’s also worth noting that Ligado continues to wait for the FCC to review its terrestrial authorizations in L-Band. Ligado, which emerged after predecessor Lightsquared’s long battle with the GPS community over interference concerns, has been working with stakeholders over the past several years to ensure its proposed broadband network doesn’t pose a problem for satellite or GPS aviation players. In May, it filed an amendment to its pending license modification with the FCC that would have it operating at significantly reduced power levels than previously planned—actions that generated some support among the likes of American Tower, the Competitive Carriers Association (CCA), the Wireless Infrastructure Association (WIA) and Inmarsat.

Ligado’s selection of Ericsson and Sequans as its vendors come as little surprise. Ericsson is the nation’s largest wireless network equipment vendor, and Sequans is a leading supplier of IoT modules and technologies for networks including LTE-M and NB-IoT.

Interestingly, Ligado is working to enter a crowded market. Already AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile operate nationwide IoT networks using LTE-M and NB-IoT, and Dish Network too is pushing to build its own NB-IoT network.