Ligado CEO urges FCC to make decision now on L-band

Despite making commitments to satisfy the GPS community, Ligado Networks is still getting push-back, including from the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA).

NTIA Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary Douglas Kinkoph sent a letter (PDF) to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai on Friday saying the accuracy and ubiquitous availability of GPS is fundamental to the nation’s economy, national security and technological leadership.

Federal agencies have voiced “significant concerns” regarding Ligado’s potential impact to their missions, national security and the U.S. economy. “Despite the considerable efforts to find a satisfactory solution, NTIA, on behalf of the executive branch, is unable to recommend the Commission’s approval of the Ligado applications,” Kinkoph wrote.

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In a press release, Ligado CEO Doug Smith said the letter from Kinkoph absurdly suggested that “plenty of spectrum is available for 5G and that no more spectrum is needed.”

“That statement puts the Department of Commerce at odds with the White House, Chairman Pai, and all of the other FCC Commissioners, bipartisan spectrum leadership in Congress, and the entire wireless industry,” he stated. “It is clear to everyone but the Department of Commerce that more spectrum is needed for 5G, and as leading 5G equipment manufacturers have stated in this proceeding, Ligado’s spectrum can help facilitate the 5G transition.”

The only good thing about the Kinkoph letter, he added, is that the commission can finally move forward and rule on the pending applications, which have been pending for four years, and free up 40 megahertz of mid-band spectrum for 5G.

“Beyond the stunning claim that no more spectrum is needed for 5G, the Kinkoph letter conveys no new information, no new analysis, no new data, and no new arguments and makes no recommendation to the Commission,” Smith stated. “At this juncture, no one can doubt that the record is complete. It is time to bring an end to the irregular and unreasonable delay caused by some Executive Branch entities that has plagued this proceeding, just as it has plagued other important FCC spectrum initiatives.”

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Ligado has the backing of the Competitive Carriers Association (CCA), and CCA President and CEO Steve Berry issued a statement saying NTIA’s recent letter brings nothing new to the table while failing to make a valid case against the Ligado applications.

"While NTIA states that it is ‘unable to recommend the Commission’s approval’ of the applications, it does not recommend dismissing the proceeding, and NTIA’s statement that preventing terrestrial access to mid-band spectrum where feasible will not hold back timely deployment of services is plainly wrong,” Berry said in the statement. “The U.S. is in real need of critical mid-band spectrum to deploy 5G and next-generation technologies, and utilization of lower mid-band spectrum like the L-Band is especially important to serve rural areas.”

Ligado, formerly known as LightSquared, is pioneering what it describes as a first-of-its-kind seamless satellite and terrestrial connectivity solution aimed at delivering 5G and IoT services to industrial customers via custom private networks. The company holds 40 MHz of spectrum licenses in the nationwide block of 1500 MHz to 1700 MHz spectrum in the L-band.

This isn’t the first time it’s been caught in the crosshairs of what appears to be a disconnect between government entities. Earlier this year, Ligado filed (PDF) for prompt action under Section 7 of the Communications Act, noting that the hold-up on its proposal appeared to be a debate about politics—one pitting the FCC against parts of the executive branch, which “for whatever reason have decided, against the wishes of President Trump’s Executive Order, to fight 5G deployment.”