This post is a threepeat, but repetition here is justified by the importance of the issue. Its significance is further elevated by the Congressional bipartisan support which it has received and to add an exclamation point to magnitude, virtually every aviation group supports the position THAT:
FCC approval of the Ligado Networks’ application would result in unacceptable interference with GPS signals especially aviation’s dependence it for accurate and dependable navigation
- Rare Bipartisan Letter Should Make The FCC Realize The Safety Significance Of The 5.9 GHz Radio Frequency Band
The FCC Announcement
FCC VOTE REVIVES OLD THREAT TO GPS
April 20, 2020By Dan Namowitz
Don’t mess with GPS: That’s the message AOPA members want the Federal Communications Commission and Congress to hear loud and clear in proceedings that could revive a wireless network proposal long criticized by aviation groups as a hazard to aerial navigation.
Countless other GPS users who depend on digital technology in their daily lives or to make a living, along with institutions including the Department of Transportation and the Department of Defense, are on the same wavelength as a battle over bandwidth that drove a network company into bankruptcy in 2012 reignites in Washington, D.C.
On April 20, the FCC voted to approve a proposal by Ligado Networks that revives the plan by network venture LightSquared to establish a land-based 5G network on L-band frequencies close enough to those used by GPS to create potential interference with navigation.
The agency issued a news release announcing the unanimous vote of its five members to approve the network that will “primarily support 5G and Internet of Things services.” The action came despite myriad objections AOPA and other organizations have consistently catalogued, ranging from the risk Ligado’s towers would pose to low-altitude aircraft to the federal agencies’ concerns that the Ligado/LightSquared effort could jeopardize emergency 911 service, the financial system, and more.
The announcement noted that regulators “included stringent conditions” to prevent harmful interference.
“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,” it said.
Protecting the GPS bandwidth from interference is a top advocacy concern for AOPA—a priority whose importance was confirmed when hundreds of thousands of readers reacted to our reports in January of temporary GPS jamming by the military during exercises off the east coast, said Rune Duke, AOPA senior director of airspace, air traffic, and aviation security.
“Just about everyone in transportation and national security is against it,” he said. “I think that’s a key point as we consider where we go next.”
Duke added that opponents were disappointed that the FCC has not responded publicly to the studies and tests that vindicated opponents’ concerns about GPS’s vulnerabilities.
In 2015, Ligado (the name signifies “connected,” the company says) emerged after the LightSquared bankruptcy, vowing to continue its plan to provide “seamless satellite and terrestrial connectivity.”
AOPA and other aviation groups said they remained concerned that “interference issues that have the potential to negatively impact the operational aviation environment remain unresolved and require definitive testing and evaluation before any system deployment.”
Also, the opponents noted, the risk to aerial navigation has become exacerbated with the increasing numbers of unmanned aircraft—which fly at low altitude and are reliant on GPS—in the airspace.
AOPA and the other industry groups opposing Ligado reiterated those concerns in an April 15 letter to the FCC.
Duke noted that in addition to AOPA’s advocacy with regulatory agencies and in Congress to protect GPS, we have participated in the RTCA Tactical Operations Committee’s review of Ligado’s plan.
The study resulted in a report noting that concerns about aviation operations and safety remained valid because GPS, by its nature, is very sensitive to “noise” on adjacent frequencies that would make users vulnerable to “a breadth of impacts” difficult to quantity and remedy in advance, Duke said.
Following the FCC’s ruling for Ligado, Duke said, the effort to block the network’s implementation would shift focus as the proposal moved to its next phase.
Citing Serious National Security, Safety and Economic Concerns, Chair DeFazio and Rep. Garamendi Call on FCC to Deny Ligado’s 5G License Application
Washington, D.C. – Today, citing risks to the reliability and function of Global Positioning System (GPS) radio navigation signals, the Chair of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Peter DeFazio (D-OR) and Committee Member Rep. John Garamendi (D-CA) called on Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai to both withdraw his draft order and reject Ligado Networks’ application for a license modification to facilitate 5G and Internet of Things services in the United States.
The Members wrote: “Approval of the Ligado Networks’ application would result in unacceptable interference with GPS signals according to numerous government studies – including information sent only last week to the FCC from the National Telecommunications and Information Administration. Furthermore, improper resolution of issues with the 5.9GHz spectrum would limit the Nation’s ability to establish new innovations in intelligent transportation systems, such as automated vehicles, that could eliminate tens of thousands of highway deaths each year.”
The Members continued: “…it makes little sense to risk the future reliability and performance of GPS especially as our economy and national security become ever more reliant on accurate, precise and reliable position, navigation and timing transmissions.”
Last week, Chair DeFazio and Rep. Garamendi (D-CA) urged U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, whose department is the lead Federal agency for civil Positioning, Navigation, and Timing requirements, to share previously undisclosed correspondence, studies and analyses on the matter with Congress. U.S. DOT has also expressed serious concerns with Ligado’s license application.
The full letter to FCC Chair Pai is below:
The JDA Journal saw the merits of preserving this band of the spectrum since November 6, 2017 when Jerry Markey wrote Auctioning Aeronautical Radionavigation Spectrum Is A Major Mistake :
FAA is the World leader in aviation (both commercial and general aviation) and without access to exclusive spectrum will be unable to meet worldwide, ICAO, safety standards.
SENSR is not good for the FAA nor NAS users and neither was the Omnibus Reconciliation Act of 1993 which took the 1390-1400 MHz band away and gave it to the unending appetite of the non-government world of instant communication.
There has been A LOT of news, commentary and analysis in the less-than 24 hours since we last posted on this.
Here are some of the more interesting developments:
In addition to Attorney General Barr quickly coming out with a statement praising the FCC’s action, Secretary of State Pompeo did so as well. We can sorta understand Barr’s interest since he is former Verizon and heads the administration’s 5G task force (Ligado has recently begun claiming it wants to use the spectrum for 5G). But we are not sure why Pompeo would have an interest. As with Barr’s rapid fire praise of the FCC’s action, it suggests collaboration between the FCC and the administration that might be of questionable propriety.
Previous press reports have indicated that both National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow and Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney have both overtly supported Ligado’s cause with the FCC.
Very quickly after the draft order was announced, The Coalition of Aviation, Satellite Communications, and Weather Information Users filed a document with the FCC seeking dismissal of Ligado’s application and termination of the proceedings.
Is a good background item from “Inside GNSS”:
Here is an interesting commentary about “what’s next” for Ligado. The author predicts the company will sell their spectrum rights to a telecom company (Verizon being the leading candidate).
Many are sure Ligado is headed for bankruptcy, regardless.
We wonder if Barr and Pompeo are not worried about GPS disruption because they know that Ligado will never transmit. Maybe they know that Ligado will sell the spectrum rights to Verizon. Then all that will happen is Ligado’s owners (Centerbridge, Fortress, and JP Morgan Chase) will be a little richer than they would have been if the FCC did not approve. That could come at the expense of Verizon shareholders, but the shareholders are a larger, more diverse group, and are likely much less well-connected than Ligado’s owners.
Share this article: