UPDATE Political pressure is building for the FCC to reverse its decision last month to allow Ligado Networks to repurpose satellite spectrum to build a 5G network on the ground. A bipartisan group of 32 U.S. senators are citing claims by the Pentagon and other federal agencies that the service would interfere with GPS navigation.
Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Jim Inhofe (R-OK), and ranking member Jack Reed (D-RI) are leading the effort. The letter sent Friday also included signatures from six senators that sit on both the Armed Services Committee and the Commerce Committee. These six senators include Sens. Deb Fischer (R-NE), Dan Sullivan (R-AK), and Rick Scott (R-FL), along with Gary Peters (D-MI), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), and Krysten Sinema (D-AZ).
The senators asked the FCC to, “immediately stay and reconsider their order” and to “more fully consider the technical concerns raised by numerous federal agencies and private sector stakeholders. We are concerned that the Order does not adequately protect adjacent band operations—including those related to the Global Positioning System and satellite communications—from harmful interference that would impact countless commercial and military activities,” the Senators wrote. They criticized the FCC for “the hurried nature” of the decision — “during a national crisis, no less.”
The FCC has said it made a bipartisan and unanimous decision on April 20, to modify Ligado’s L-band license to use its spectrum for 5G. The agency says its engineers have studied the interference issues for nearly two decades and concluded the safeguards spelled out in the order, including power limits on Ligado’s radios, should mitigate harmful interference.
The letter comes after Defense Department officials testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee on May 6, that interference from 5G radios that Ligado plans to deploy on the ground would affect accuracy of weapons systems as well as disrupt 911 first responder calls, which rely on GPS location information. DoD officials said they also represent the concerns of the Departments of Transportation, Interior, Justice, Energy, Homeland Security, as well as the Federal Aviation Administration, Coast Guard, and NASA, Inside Towers reported. The Administration has until May 29, to formally ask the FCC to reconsider, an action the Pentagon says it’s seeking.
In response to Friday’s letter, the FCC again defended its “rigorous” process and refuted claims it made a hasty decision, cnet reported.