March 16, 2021
By Dawn M.K. Zoldi (USAF, Ret.)
When most were focused on the transition of power in the White House, the day before the Inauguration and the very last day in office for the outgoing party, the FCC denied a petition to stay (delay) the Ligado Networks deployment of a low-power nationwide network interfering with the GPS signal.
On January 19, the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) issued an order denying the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) Stay Petition in the Ligado Networks LLC (Ligado) matter.
That petition had requested that the FCC stop Ligado from continuing work in furtherance of its April 2020 authorization allowing the deployment of a low-power terrestrial nationwide network in the L-band. This latest allows Ligado to press on, as they have already been doing. What it did not do was address the NTIA’s Petition for Reconsideration which seeks a relook at the original approval.
The big deal is that the FCC addressed the merits of NTIA’s recon arguments in this latest smackdown, and wasn’t buying what other branches of the government were selling.
How does this bode for NTIA and others, including the Department of Defense (DOD), who assert Ligado’s net will interfere with mission-critical GPS and have petitioned for a Ligado redo? Hard to tell, particularly with a new executive team at the helm and Congressionally-directed interference studies pending.
The Beat Goes On
A new team’s forming up. The day after the election, President Biden appointed Democratic commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel as acting Chair to bridge the gap at the Federal Communications Commission. About thirty days into her new role, the Chairwoman shared a draft Order that would make 100 megahertz of mid-band spectrum (3.45-3.55 GHz band) available for auction and 5G deployment. While this move was in furtherance of Congress’ end-of-year Consolidated Appropriations Act and its provision, the Beat CHINA for 5G Act, the public statements accompanying the release are informative of intent.
Rosenworcel said, “We need to deliver the 5G that the American people were promised. That means a 5G that is fast, secure, resilient, and—most importantly—available across the country.”
Ligado’s network will enable 5G.
But at what cost?
That’s the big question, the answer to which should ultimately inform FCC action.