Proposed use of Spectrum by Ligado may interfere with GPS
DOD, FAA, NTIA say 5G use will lessen safety system reliability; FCC disagrees
Justice and State Ligado is needed to combat Chinese 5G
The battle over granting Ligado Networks access to the 5G spectrum has been long in years and heavyweight as to opponents. The issue was joined in 2010, as chronicled by IGNSS, when the predecessor company,
LightSquared wanted to use ancillary terrestrial components (ATCs) as the basis for a terrestrial network of some 40,000 ground stations. It is hard to overstate the surprise of those managing satellites in the neighboring frequency bands. A terrestrial service with powerful signals in a band where they would be next to signals already weakened by travel from space was a jaw-dropping proposal to many familiar with GPS.
A sharp-eyed member of the GPS community — that is those who provide GPS and those who use GPS — noticed the filing. Experts quickly assessed the plan and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), which coordinated federal use of frequencies, noted the potential for interference in a filing to the FCC in January 2012. A few weeks later the FCC approved the request, with the proviso that LightSquared not interfere with GPS.
LightSquared begat Ligado through bankruptcy and the new FCC applicant was able to initiate five years of testing and a technical debate on measuring interference. The FCC’s experts disagreed with the FAA/DOT’s, DOD’s and NTIA’s assertions that the use of this frequency would impact important military and civilian uses. The opponents voiced technical issues fortified by strong need to protect the threatened GPS signals used by the military, aviation/maritime safety and many other civilian applications.
The most recent order permitting Ligado to go forward includes language requiring the 5G network operator to take steps to
…the Commission included stringent conditions to ensure that incumbents would not experience harmful interference. For example, the Commission mandated that Ligado provide a significant (23 megahertz) guard-band using its own licensed spectrum to separate its terrestrial base station transmissions from neighboring operations in the Radionavigation-Satellite Service allocation. Moreover, Ligado is required to limit the power levels of its base stations to 9.8 dBW, a reduction of 99.3% from the power levels proposed in Ligado’s 2015 application. The order also requires Ligado to protect adjacent band incumbents by reporting its base station locations and technical operating parameters to potentially affected government and industry stakeholders prior to commencing operations, continuously monitoring the transmit power of its base station sites, and complying with procedures and actions for responding to credible reports of interference, including rapid shutdown of operations where warranted.
The trade press has covered the Ligado request extensively, demeaning the FCC’s technical analysis and alleging that lobbying was a major factor in this decision. (N.B. ligado is a Spanish word meaning connected which has obvious political and communications connotations.
The most recent documents filed by the Departments of State and Justice may have revealed the trump suit in this contest:
Barr said that “swift FCC action on spectrum is imperative to allow for the deployment of 5G. This is essential if we are to keep our economic and technological leadership and avoid forfeiting it to Communist China.”
The Chinese Communist Party is determined to dominate the global digital marketplace. Chinese companies with virtually unlimited access to capital for the development of the next generation of connectivity are going head-to-head with US companies. Beyond economic competition, Beijing’s techno-authoritarianism travels too, and Beijing is working to export to sympathetic regimes the same combination of equipment and ideology it uses for monitoring and controlling its citizens at home.
Where Chinese 5G equipment and connected products are used anywhere in the world, they could gain access to the private data of billions of people, enabling the Chinese government to collect private information about individuals’ medical histories, spending habits, political views, personal details expressed on social media, physical location, financial situation, and more. Access to such information could be used in any number of ways, including gaining a commercial or technical advantage in data-driven markets, targeting key individuals for recruitment by intelligence operations, or compromising political figures.
The Chinese firm Huawei has been Beijing´s spearhead on this matter. The company is already a leader and a symbol of the Chinese advancements in innovation and ICT. In 2018, it surpassed Apple as the second largest seller of smartphones, and it’s set to overtake Samsung´s market share by 2020.
Huawei seems to have a central role in China’s bid to outline the future of 5G. The company already provides technology for the 5G wireless infrastructure across the world. Huawei is not state-driven. However, like any other Chinese company, it is expected to cooperate with the state intelligence work in accordance with Article 7 of the National Intelligence Law. In recent years, Huawei has heavily invested in 5G, patented technologies, hired international experts, and lobbied in the industry groups for the definition of new standards for performance and interoperability. These standards will delineate the money flow coming from royalty payments.
As aeropolitical commentator extraordinaire once intoned, “It ain’t over until its over” or another wise aphorism dictates, “It ain’t over till the Fat Lady sings”. The collection of comments curated below suggest that the Congress, the Courts or maybe even POTUS will make the final decision on this 5G application.
Yesterday was the deadline for filing Petitions for Reconsideration with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) regarding their decision on Ligado Networks.
The National Telecommunications Information Administration (NTIA)
NTIA filed a petition on behalf of the Executive Branch of government. They asked the FCC in one part of the petition to rescind its decision entirely. and in another to reconsider and modify its decision. The NTIA’s press release is below and has links to its petition and other information.
At Least Seven Other Petitioners
At least seven other petitions were filed representing dozens of companies and groups. A press release with the list of the seven and some quotes is also reproduced below. All of the petitions will be available through the FCC ECFS system on its website on Tuesday.
RNT Foundation was one of the seven. Our petition can be found here.
The points we made were that:
- The FCC did not do any cost-benefit or similar analysis to determine if this was in the best interest of the nation. This despite establishing a new office to do this kind of work in 2018 and pledging to incorporate such work into its decision making process.
- The FCC failed to adhere to the law by not resolving concerns about disruption before issuing its order. The 2017 NDAA modified the Communications Act of 1934 to require the FCC to resolve such concerns before proceeding. Widespread and credible concerns remain.
- The FCC made several procedural errors including not issuing a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking when it first decided to change satellite spectrum into terrestrial spectrum
- That Ligado’s predecessor-in-interest withheld from the FCC a 2001 study that showed proposed operations interfering with GPS receivers.
NTIA Files Petition For Reconsideration of FCC Grant of Ligado License Modification Applications
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
May 22, 2020
News Media Contact:
- NTIA, Office of Public Affairs, (202) 482-7002, firstname.lastname@example.org
Today, NTIA on behalf of the Executive Branch petitioned the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to reconsider its Order and Authorization that conditionally granted license modification applications filed by Ligado Networks LLC. The FCC action permits Ligado to provide terrestrial wireless services that threaten to harm federal government users of the Global Positioning System (GPS) along with a variety of other public and private stakeholders.
The petition asks the FCC to rescind the grant, or to reconsider and modify the conditions it imposed on the grant in a number of critical respects. NTIA also petitioned the FCC to stay the effective date of the Order and Authorization while it considers NTIA’s reconsideration request.
NTIA has previously transmitted filings on behalf of the Executive Branch in December 2019 and April 2020 opposing the applications filed by Ligado to modify its licenses. These filings highlighted the widely held concerns across the Executive Branch, with the April filing detailing the expected impact on national security systems and the cost and impracticality of offers from Ligado to mitigate those concerns. Today’s petition makes the case that the FCC gave insufficient deference to the considerations raised by the Executive Branch, especially those from the Departments of Defense and Transportation, while justifying its decision in large part on the potential public interest benefits of a new low-power terrestrial service that would compete with or complement 4G and 5G networks already operating or being deployed across the United States.
At Least Seven Separate Petitions Will Call on FCC to Reverse Ligado Order
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
At Least Seven Separate Petitions Will Call on FCC to Reverse Ligado Order
Dozens of parties will cite evidence of harmful interference and vast economic harm that FCC ignored in favor of dubious 5G marketing claims
WASHINGTON, DC (May 21, 2020) — Today, dozens of private sector interests will file Petitions for Reconsideration of the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) recent Order to allow Ligado Networks to rezone its satellite spectrum holdings for terrestrial mobile use and “flip” them for a profit. Petitioners will ask the FCC to reconsider its prior decision, which has generated widespread opposition within the Administration, on Capitol Hill and from other aviation and satellite spectrum users. Petitioners include the Airline Pilots Association, the Association of Equipment Manufacturers, aviation interests (including the Cargo Airline Association, the International Air Transport Association and Airlines for America), Iridium Communications, Lockheed Martin, Trimble and the RNT Foundation.
The petitioners argue the FCC’s Order ignored or improperly disregarded the great majority of evidence, including technical analyses submitted by parties, showing harmful interference and relied instead on easily disproven claims that Ligado will provide a so-called 5G service. The L-band is not included in any internationally-recognized 5G standard, the spectrum is not harmonized regionally or globally for 5G, FCC’s 5G FAST Plan does not include Ligado or L-Band spectrum nor does the company have enough contiguous spectrum.
Airlines for America, said, “Airlines for America (A4A) strongly supports a broad industry coalition that has led at least 32 US Senators from both sides of the aisle to urge the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to stay and reconsider granting Ligado Networks’ petition to repurpose critical frequency spectrum for “5G” terrestrial communications services. The FCC’s rushed order in April ignored testing protocols intended to protect critical users likely to be impacted, including aviation uses of Global Positioning Systems (GPS) for navigation, and satellite communications. Beyond industry opposition, the US Department of Defense also strongly opposed the FCC’s action.
Additionally, A4A is joining other industry constituents in directly petitioning the FCC to reverse its course, the effects of which could impact the safety of the flying public and impact operations, especially harmful outcomes in the recovery period following the COVID-19 pandemic.”
The Aerospace Industries Association, which represents more than 300 companies, said, “Uninterrupted access to GPS is essential not only for our industry, but also for the American people, our national security, and the strength of the U.S. economy. This access is now threatened by the FCC’s decision to grant Ligado Networks’ application, despite years of evidence and the concerns outlined by several federal agencies about potential interference. With this motion, we are banding together to urge the FCC to reconsider this decision and allow safety and data to drive their decision-making on spectrum.”
The International Air Transport Association (IATA), which represents some 290 airlines or 82% of global traffic said, “Approving Ligado’s spectrum for 5G poses a strong risk of interference with GPS signals, including the potential interruption of GPS signals at low altitudes. The FCC should reverse this decision.”
Capt. Joe DePete, President, Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA), said, “Throughout its report and order, the FCC uses words like ‘possible’ and ‘feasible’ when talking about whether Ligado can operate. These are not the words you would want to hear your Captain use when talking about successfully completing your flight the next time you are sitting in the cabin. Aviation requires certainty and guaranteed performance from its systems. The FCC’s hasty, arbitrary, and incorrect decision will set a disastrous precedent that will impede ongoing work on spectrum sharing. The Ligado decision must be reversed immediately.”
Aviation Spectrum Resources, Inc., said, “In jointly filing a petition for reconsideration of the FCC’s recent decision on Ligado Networks’ proposal, ASRI joins the wider aviation community in expressing our view that the decision is based on a fundamentally flawed interpretation of the data that have been presented to the Commission. Among other deficiencies, the FCC’s decision ignores the FAA’s reservations cited by the Department of Transportation, having implications for many low-level aircraft operators including helicopters and UAVs. The FCC Order also seems to acknowledge the mounting evidence that aviation safety satellite communications will receive interference, but it relies on the completion of private negotiations to resolve these questions while giving Ligado a green light to proceed, rather than requiring specific mitigations itself. ASRI believes the FCC should revisit its decision in conjunction with aviation experts to ensure the safety of air transport, medivac and other essential aviation operators are not affected by this decision.”
Matt Desch, CEO, Iridium Communications, said, “The FCC’s Ligado action prioritizes economic windfalls to a few speculators over safety of life, national security and important private sector companies whose customers would be most upended by their harmful interference.”
Helicopter Association International said, “From the perspective of helicopter operators that conduct a variety of missions in low altitudes, often in close proximity to flight obstructions, navigational accuracy and reliability are paramount. The Ligado proposal jeopardizes aviation safety, especially in low-level missions conducted where the effectiveness of satellite communications, GPS, and terrain avoidance and warning systems (TAWS) could be considerably reduced. The FCC’s decision does not adequately account for the well documented risks to aviation safety systems as well as opposition led by the Department of Transportation and supported by many other agencies. HAI strongly urges the FCC to stay and reconsider the order and partner closely with relevant stakeholders to gain complete understanding of the order’s potential impact on aviation safety.”
And Dana A. Goward, President & Director, RNT Foundation, said, “The FCC treated this like a commercial communications issue instead of a decision about safety-of-life navigation. They didn’t even consider the overall cost to the public in lost lives and property.”
In addition to private sector interests, 14 federal agencies and numerous Republican and Democratic Members of Congress oppose the FCC’s decision in favor of Ligado.
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