UPDATE Opposition is building against the FCC’s approval of Ligado’s plan to develop a broadband network using L-band satellite spectrum next to GPS spectrum. The Aerospace Industries Association, airlines, members of Congress and other trade groups have all come out publicly to oppose Ligado’s plan.
“The ALPA [Airline Pilots Association] is seriously concerned that the Commission did not fully comprehend or appreciate the safety performance levels required to ensure safe operation of GPS aviation communication, navigation and surveillance services, or the threat of adverse operational impacts from Ligado’s proposed service,” wrote Capt. Bob Fox, ALPA’s first vice president and national safety coordinator in the union’s Petition for Reconsideration. “The tests and evidence relied upon by the Commission were inadequate to rule out failure modes that can result in serious adverse safety consequences resulting from interference with critical GPS-dependent aviation equipment and services.”
GPS maker Garmin opposes the Ligado decision as well. Garmin says the order relies on what the FCC calls “co-existence agreements” between Ligado and GPS manufacturers. Garmin says it never entered into such a deal with Ligado. “Instead, Garmin entered into a technical settlement agreement in 2015 to resolve ongoing litigation brought against it by Ligado. Nothing in the Settlement Agreement constitutes support for or an endorsement of Ligado or its proposed services or technologies. Garmin states again that it does not support or endorse Ligado’s license modification applications,” the company said in its filing.
The FCC said in its decision GPS systems will be protected and that Ligado reduced its power levels to avoid causing harmful interference. The Department of Defense recently told Congress the interference mitigation efforts put in place by the Commission won’t work because they put the onus on the DoD and others to make the agency aware of the interference. That would be unworkable, because of the millions of DoD devices, including weapons systems, that use GPS, according to the department, Inside Towers reported.
Ligado too, says its system won’t cause harmful interference. Ligado Networks President/CEO Doug Smith recently laid out for attendees of WIA’s Connect (X) how the company intends to proceed with its 5G network build.
Many telecom associations applauded the FCC’s April vote, especially for the chance to get more mid-band spectrum into the wireless market. After the action, American Tower supported the outcome, writing to the FCC that: “Approval of Ligado’s use of the prime mid-band allocations within the L-Band for 5G and IoT purposes will help the wireless industry deliver on demands for advanced wireless services and drive the next generation of American technological innovation.”
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