Ligado slams NTIA over GPS ‘fearmongering’

Less than a week after FCC Commissioner Michael O’Rielly asked President Donald Trump to step in to free up federal spectrum for 5G, Ligado blasted the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) for trying to usurp the FCC’s authority over commercial radio spectrum.

In his letter to Trump (PDF), O’Rielly did not mention Ligado, which wants to use spectrum between 1.5 and 1.6 GHz. In fact, the spectrum bands the commissioner initially is said to be targeting include the 3.1-3.3 GHz and 3.3-3.55 GHz bands. However, the theme of the argument is similar: Federal users are making every excuse and using delay tactics to prevent new use of spectrum.

In Ligado’s case, it’s been a years-long fight. In 2015, Ligado, which in a previous iteration was known as LightSquared, resubmitted applications to the FCC for license modifications to use 40 MHz of spectrum between 1.5 and 1.6 GHz for satellite-terrestrial use.

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Ligado eventually reached agreements with GPS manufacturers that were concerned about interference, but the GPS Innovation Alliance (GPSIA), for one, continues to call on the FCC to ensure that GPS receivers are protected from harmful interference.

GPSIA Executive Director J. David Grossman released a statement this week saying they’re pleased to see numerous federal agencies and departments, including the Department of Defense (DoD), “reaffirm the importance of protecting GPS and indirectly the criticality of using an internationally established criteria, known as the ‘1 dB Standard,’ for protecting GPS. The 1 dB Standard is the only reliable mechanism that provides the predictability and certainty to ensure the continuation of the GPS success story."

Ligado argues that a 1 dB metric is not part of the FCC’s rules for adjacent band operations, is inapplicable to its pending license modification applications and is not a standard.

“For years now, Ligado has met every reasonable request to grant protection to GPS with a resounding and emphatic ‘yes,’” Ligado told the commission in its April 12 filing (PDF). “The NTIA submission is especially galling in light of the urgent need to make mid-band spectrum available to meet our 5G needs. Our nation’s security and our economy demand that we end this four-year long debate once and for all.”

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In a filing (PDF) addressed to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai last Friday, the NTIA submitted letters from the DoD, Air Force and other agencies reiterating their concerns about how Ligado’s proposed license modifications would cause “unacceptable operational impacts … and adversely affect the military potential of GPS.”

Ligado called the NTIA submission “replete with fearmongering,” and devoid of any new evidence that the commission instructed all stakeholders to submit nearly four years ago.

The flare-up comes after C4ISRNET published a report saying the FCC was poised to approve a draft order that would allow the privately held Ligado to operate in L-band frequency range despite years of government resistance, largely led by the DoD, whose GPS operates in a nearby band.