The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) recently voted unanimously to allow Ligado to deploy a low-power 5G network, and lawmakers are not happy.
In its initial ruling, the FCC authorized “Ligado to deploy a low-power terrestrial nationwide network in the 1526-1536 MHz, 1627.5- 1637.5 MHz, and 1646.5-1656.5 MHz bands that will primarily support Internet of Things (IoT) services.”
There was only one problem with the FCC’s decision: It was opposed by numerous organizations and agencies, including major airlines, the Departments of Commerce, Defense and Justice. The reason for the objection is the potential for Ligado’s network to interfere with commercial and military GPS equipment.
In an op-ed published in C4ISRNET, Sen. Jim Inhofe, Sen. Jack Reed, Rep. Adam Smith and Rep. Mac Thornberry lay out the case for why they believe the FCC made a mistake:
“The problem here is that Ligado’s planned usage is not in the prime mid-band spectrum being considered for 5G — and it will have a significant risk of interference with GPS reception, according to the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA),” the lawmakers write. “The signals interference Ligado’s plan would create could cost taxpayers and consumers billions of dollars and require the replacement of current GPS equipment just as we are trying to get our economy back on its feet quickly — and the FCC has just allowed this to happen.”
The lawmakers go on to highlight that no fewer than nine federal agencies and departments did extensive testing and came to the conclusion that Ligado’s network would interfere with existing GPS equipment.
“Considering the risks, it’s clear the FCC commissioners made the wrong decision regarding Ligado’s plan, which will set a disastrous precedent while impeding ongoing work on spectrum sharing,” the lawmakers continue. “The vulnerabilities to our national and economic security are not worth the risk, particularly for a band of spectrum that isn’t necessary to secure a robust 5G network.
“We encourage the FCC to withdraw its approval of Ligado’s application and take this opportunity to work with the NTIA and other federal agencies, including the Departments of Defense and Transportation, to find a solution that will both support commercial broadband expansion and protect national security assets. Moreover, we expect the FCC to resolve Department of Defense concerns before moving forward, as required by law.
“If they do not, and unless President Trump intervenes to stop this from moving forward, it will be up to Congress to clean up this mess.”
We will continue to monitor the story for the FCC’s response and whatever action is taken by either side.