Ligado files opposition to NTIA’s ‘outrageous’ request to block its license modification

Ligado Networks on Friday filed an opposition to the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) petition asking for a stay in the FCC’s order approving Ligado’s license modification application.

After years of it being in limbo, the FCC on April 20 approved the application for Ligado to deploy a low-power terrestrial network in the L-Band to support 5G and IoT services.

About a month later, NTIA, on behalf of the Executive Branch, petitioned the FCC to reconsider its order. According to NTIA, the FCC action permits Ligado to provide terrestrial wireless services that “threaten to harm federal government” users of GPS along with a variety of other public and private stakeholders.

To that, Ligado had this to say: “NTIA’s extraordinary request to stop the FCC’s decision from taking effect is outrageous. Because NTIA did not win on the merits, it has instead tried to turn routine policy disagreements into a lockdown of the FCC’s regular and proper process."

Ligado added that the FCC’s order does not harm NTIA; "rather, it is NTIA that would harm Ligado and the American public by halting the company’s progress toward building industrial 5G networks that will enhance economic competitiveness, create jobs and protect our national security.”

In short, NTIA’s petition “does not come close to establishing that a stay is warranted,” Ligado said in its filing with the commission.

The filing points to statements by key executive branch officials, including Attorney General William Barr and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, praising the commission’s decision as “vital to our national security” and essential to the United States’ “economic and technological leadership,” respectively.

RELATED: Ligado slams NTIA over GPS ‘fearmongering’

Ligado said the FCC’s order came after it exhaustively considered all the evidence related to GPS and the conclusions were based on reams of technical data.  

It also said all of  NTIA’s claims of “purported irreparable injuries” arise out of potential harmful interference that could only happen once Ligado’s network begins operations, but Ligado doesn’t expect to begin operations anytime soon. Moreover, the order itself requires six months advance notice regarding the activation of any base station transmitting in the 1526-1536 MHz band, providing further assurance that any “supposed potential harmful interference is not in fact imminent.”

Inter-agency system failures

In their joint comments about supporting Ligado’s application last month, FCC Commissioners Jessica Rosenworcel and Geoffrey Starks said the decision was an “extremely close call,” noting the concerns about the potential for harmful interference.

“In the end we are compelled to support the expert technical analysis done by the Federal Communications Commission’s engineering staff,” the two Democrats said. However, they noted that the process exposes a fault line in spectrum decision-making. "As we move to the next generation of wireless service, it is imperative that we have an improved inter-agency system and a stronger whole-of-government approach to our 5G effort.”

The FCC said its order approving Ligado’s application was adopted to promote more efficient and effective use of the nation’s spectrum resources and ensure that adjacent band operations, including GPS, are protected from harmful interference. 

Ligado on Thursday announced it has received more than $100 million in new investments to begin taking the steps to build 5G IoT networks that serve mission-critical industries like public safety and emergency response, commercial transportation, energy, and manufacturing.

Besides supporting critical entities like public safety and emergency response, Ligado said its services will be able to serve customers in the transportation, agriculture, energy, and supply chain sectors.