BoatUS, Stakeholders Ask FCC to Reconsider Approval of Ligado L-Band Wireless Plan

A group says the land-based, industrial 5G L-Band wireless network will make the nation’s GPS system less reliable.
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BoatUS

A coalition groups whose users rely on GPS is asking the Federal Communications Commission to reverse course on an April 20 decision to allow Ligado Networks to begin construction of a land-based industrial 5G “L-Band” wireless network, saying that once operable, it will make GPS less reliable.

A letter signed by 78 GPS stakeholders, including the Keep GPS Working Coalition and Boat Owners Association of The United States, requesting the decision be overturned was sent to U.S. Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee chair Robert Wicker, R-Miss., and ranking member Maria Cantwell, D-Wash.

In it, the group requested legislators’ “direct involvement to protect the satellite communications and GPS services that we provide and are relied on by tens of millions of Americans every day.”

Ligado’s slice of licensed “L-Band” spectrum, designated for space-based navigation and communications, is located near lower frequency bands used by hundreds of millions of GPS units in public safety, health, government, transportation, military, commerce, agriculture and more, according to BoatUS.

That has sparked fears that as the network is rolled out, signal interferences will increase.

“This is about boaters — and many others — continued ability to safely navigate and get reliable weather forecasts so we know when to go out or head home, and safety-of-life issues especially when on-the-water help is needed,” said BoatUS government affairs manager David Kennedy in a statement. “The FCC’s decision threatens GPS reliability for countless consumers, farmers, ranchers, pilots, boat owners, surveyors, construction companies and other private GPS users who will be forced to suffer the network’s interference with their GPS devices or require them to pay to replace them.”

The coalition says the moved disregarded “mountains of evidence” highlighting the interference issue, ignored established technical standards, relied only on limited studies with vague and impractical criteria to assess interference, and was made during the Covid-19 pandemic while stakeholders were dealing with the health crisis.

They also claim FCC ignored serious concerns from the federal government as well as agencies including the departments of Defense, Transportation, Commerce, Interior, Justice and Homeland Security, in addition to NASA, the National Science Foundation, Federal Aviation Administration and U.S. Coast Guard.

Ligado’s former name was LightSquared — in 2010, the FCC suspended consideration of LightSquared’s proposal to use its licensed spectrum for a 4G LTE network citing unresolved concerns over radio spectrum interference with GPS.

That forced the company into bankruptcy, but in May, Ligado announced $100 million in new funding from unnamed sources, Trade Only Today blogger Norm Schultz wrote in a blog post last summer.

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