American Tower, CCA, WIA on board with Ligado’s plans to use midband spectrum

Citing the need for midband spectrum in the U.S., several entities are throwing their support behind Ligado Networks’ proposal to deploy a terrestrial network using 40 MHz of midband spectrum in the 1500 MHz to 1700 MHz range.

Among those in the pro-Ligado camp: American Tower, the Competitive Carriers Association (CCA), the Wireless Infrastructure Association (WIA) and even Inmarsat, which some had earlier pegged as a potential victim of interference from Ligado.

To be sure, Ligado still faces opposition from a number of groups, and comments are still rolling in to the FCC after it kicked off a public comment period. But its plans to invest up to $800 million in satellite and terrestrial network capabilities and its intention to serve the industrial IoT sector are gaining support from a diverse set of entities.

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.

RELATED: Ligado proposes license modification to protect GPS aviation devices

CCA said (PDF) the FCC should approve Ligado’s amended application to repurpose 35 MHz of midband spectrum, “ensuring more efficient use of highly desirable mid-band spectrum.” Ligado has gone to great lengths since 2011 to work with the FCC, FAA, other relevant agencies and industry stakeholders to ensure that a new terrestrial broadband deployment would not interfere with the 1526-1536 MHz band, according to CCA.

American Tower said it’s been following with interest Ligado’s efforts to use prime midband spectrum to help meet the rapidly growing demand for broadband wireless services. Approving Ligado’s application and permitting use of its spectrum will help ensure the timely deployment of commercial IoT applications of 5G, according to the tower company (PDF).

RELATED: Ligado CEO opens up on the company’s industrial IoT business model and target markets

Noting that Ligado’s proposal calls on the commission to approve the terrestrial deployment of Ligado’s 40 MHz of midband spectrum in the 1500 MHz to 1700 MHz range and to set aside the 10 MHz block of spectrum near GPS frequencies for satellite-only use, WIA urged the commission to give it the OK.

“Given the extraordinary efforts by all parties to resolve the issues presented, the time is ripe for the Commission to provide a final seal of approval and provide an additional pathway for 5G deployment,” wrote WIA President Jonathan Adelstein (PDF).

Technology consulting firm Roberson and Associates pointed to (PDF) the dramatic reduction in transmission power that Ligado has proposed, saying any remaining technical concerns about the deployment of Ligado’s proposed terrestrial network should no longer be warranted.

Based on significant testing conducted by the National Advanced Spectrum and Communications Test Network (NASCTN) and Roberson’s own test results, “no GPS devices should experience harmful interference based on Ligado’s deployed system,” the firm said, adding that any lingering concerns, particularly for high-precision GPS devices, should be eliminated through use of readily available filtered antennas.

Since Public Knowledge filed its initial comments in support of Ligado’s application, the case for an IoT-only network has become clearer and more compelling, according to PK. 3GPP's Release 15, touted as the first standalone 5G network standard, means that equipment for terrestrial IoT networks will soon become broadly available. The increased commercial interest in autonomous vehicles creates an emerging market for a national IoT network independent of other cellular services, PK said in its July 9 filing.

PK says the FCC should grant Ligado’s application, saying that at some point, “enough is enough” when it comes to naysayers. Ligado has worked diligently to address the concerns of stakeholders, and numerous parties have dropped their opposition.

“The Commission should recognize that complete unanimity among stakeholders will always be impossible, and should make its own evaluation based on the engineering evidence before it and its own experiments and analysis,” PK said. “If the Commission finds that grant of the application will not cause harmful interference to stakeholders, and that the proposed interference mitigation measures provide sufficient reassurance to the Commission, then the Commission should grant the application rather than continue to try to find ‘consensus’ among stakeholders.”

Alternatively, if the commission can’t determine that granting Ligado’s application would adequately protect existing spectrum users, then it should reject Ligado’s application, providing a chance to appeal in court, according to PK.

Either way, the FCC owes Ligado some closure. “This endless process of application modification for new wireless services discourages investment and innovation and is contrary to the spirit, if not the letter, of Section 7 of the Communications Act,” PK said.

Inmarsat uses L-band spectrum to provide critical services and capabilities to users in the maritime, aviation, military, public safety, media, energy and other sectors, and it’s urging the FCC to act promptly in approving Ligado’s modified plans.

Boeing highlighted a number of interference concerns it says must still be addressed, but even it said it anticipates that Ligado will continue to make progress in addressing other interference concerns raised by its broadband terrestrial wireless proposal.  

Initial comments on Ligado’s amendment were due July 9, with reply comments due July 19 and another round of comments due July 26.