Globalstar TLPS proposal still in limbo at FCC

It appears that Globalstar's terrestrial low power service (TLPS) proposal will remain on hold for the foreseeable future.

FCC Commissioner Michael O’Rielly said he’s still undecided, as is evident in ex parte filings (PDF) that reveal how Globalstar and others are meeting with him and his legal advisor, Erin McGrath, regarding the proceeding. Globalstar is asking the FCC for authority to use its satellite spectrum for TLPS to boost Wi-Fi capacity. Opponents to its plan include the Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG), Wi-Fi Alliance and Microsoft.

“I don’t have any new data or information to provide,” O’Rielly said in response to a question during a media briefing after the commission’s open meeting Thursday. “You can see from my ex partes that I continue to have conversations with anyone who’s interested in coming in. And I don’t have any idea on the timing, I don’t know that it’s any different than last month.”

In May, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler circulated a draft ruling that would give Globalstar the right to move forward with its proposed service. In a letter to U.S. Rep. Mike Thompson last summer, Wheeler assured him that the draft Report and Order that he circulated includes numerous conditions to help ensure that deployment of Globalstar’s terrestrial Wi-Fi network would not have a significant detrimental impact on Bluetooth or other spectrum users, including with respect to hearing aids and assistive listening devices. The item also reaffirms the commission’s commitment to carefully monitor the impact of the network on other spectrum users and to take action, if necessary, to protect the integrity of the unlicensed ecosystem, the letter said, noting the order is before other commissioners for their consideration.

O’Rielly is seen as a key vote. Fellow Republican Commissioner Ajit Pai released a statement in June saying he voted against the proposal "to give a particular company special rights to unlicensed spectrum in the 2.4 GHz band. Bestowing this type of preferential access would be a marked departure from our successful and innovative approach to unlicensed spectrum." FierceWirelessTech confimed through a source who spoke on condition of anonymity that Democratic Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel voted against the draft order via the FCC’s electronic system.

Ex parte filings show Globalstar representatives have been meeting with O’Rielly and McGrath. Most recently, former FCC commissioner Harold Furchtgott-Roth, a consultant to Globalstar, urged an expeditious resolution to any outstanding issues in the proceeding. That came after Tim Taylor, VP of Finance, Business Operations & Strategy for Globalstar, spoke with O’Rielly’s office to urge them to act quickly. 

Globalstar said authorizing it to offer TLPS would serve the public interest by adding 22 megahertz to the nation’s broadband spectrum inventory and alleviating congestion in the 2.4 GHz ISM band. It also suggested a framework whereby third parties would be permitted to obtain opportunistic use of Channel 14 where Globalstar has not deployed TLPS. This would ensure that licensed and unlicensed services are not disrupted.

For more:
- see this ex parte notice (PDF)

Related articles:
Globalstar plan sparks flurry of meetings, calls to FCC
FCC circulates order on Globalstar's TLPS proposal
Microsoft follows Google, NCTA in dissing Globalstar plan