“Grave error” for FCC Ligado Order

A committee responsible for advising the US government on space-based navigation services came up with a conclusion that the approval of the Ligado’s 5G network by the Federal Communication Commission is a risky decision that endangers the Global Positioning System services. 

A meeting held online on July 1, members of the National space-based Positioning, Navigation, and Timing Advisory Board extensively debated the report composed for the committee. The report was about the April FCC conclusion to let Ligado run a 5G tellurian network on a spectrum band adjacent to the one used by GPS. 

“It has suddenly altered the entire disposition of the radio spectrum close the GPS main frequency,” Brad Parkinson, the chief Architect of the GPS and vice-chair of the committee. “It is a grave error made by FCC for allowing a robust tellurian communication network on a range band adjoining to the GPS.” He added.

He also pointed out that the original spectrum’s intention was to be used by the mobile satellite systems with weaker signals than those Ligado is planning to utilize in the band. “The re-planning of this spectrum is a risky affair, and brings no near-term advantages to the United States,” he said. 

Parkinson said that the lack of any advantage is due to the lack of 5G hardware or standards plotted to operate at the L-band frequencies Ligado goals to use. He argued that the possible interference would outweigh any benefit that would accrue to the GPS signals from the Ligado’s excessive power signals, which he extensively talked about in his presentation. 

“There is no positive outcome on the United States’ competitive posture by the FCC order. This is because the order may harm the GPS reputation due to the damage it does,” he concluded. 

Apart from the committee, the FCC decision on Ligado has also faced criticism from various government agencies, the Defense Department, and some members of Congress, mainly due to the interference worries. However, the FCC commissioners who adopted Ligado order have continuously argued that the company agreed to reduce power levels, which will prevent interference. 

The committee members who supported the Parkinson report said that the FCC approval of the Ligado could cause the same interference for various space-based navigations systems and could set a bad precedent for other countries to develop similar systems. 

However, the committee did not offer any recommendations on how to reverse it and stated that they intend to issue a public statement on how they feel concerning the Ligado approval.