Ligado, Nokia strike deal to target US private networks

Ligado’s spectrum will be used in conjunction with Nokia’s Digital Automation Cloud for enterprise private wireless

Ligado Networks and Nokia announced plans to combine Nokia’s Digital Automation Cloud (DAC) enterprise private wireless networks solution with Ligado’s L-Band nationwide licensed spectrum for deployment in the U.S. market.

Ligado’s spectrum holdings are at 1.6 GHz. Nokia’s DAC is an application platform that provides both private wireless capabilities and edge compute; it can make use of both unlicensed and licensed spectrum. Nokia’s 4G and 5G base stations can utilize Ligado’s Band 24 spectrum, the equipment vendor noted.

“We are excited about partnering with Nokia to support 4G and 5G enterprise private networks utilizing Ligado’s spectrum,” said Ligado Chief Strategy Officer Scott Wiener in a statement. “U.S. companies, particularly those operating critical infrastructure and systems, are increasingly implementing mobile private networks to assure reliability and security in their business operations. To serve this rapidly expanding market need, Ligado is advancing commercial efforts to deploy its 35 megahertz of spectrum with market leaders like Nokia, including 3GPP standardization and ecosystem development of the company’s 1670-1675 MHz band.”

“Ligado looks forward to supporting Nokia DAC deployments with commercial availability by end of 2022 of our L-Band FDD spectrum platform to feed the demand for efficient coverage and high bandwidth in mobile private networks. We also anticipate developing additional capabilities with the TDD 1670-1675 MHz band,” said Maqbool Aliani, Ligado’s CTO.

The partners said that they expect to start engaging with enterprise customers early this year.

Ligado has been building up its capabilities with an eye toward providing terrestrial 5G private networks and IoT connectivity and services. In June of 2021, the company’s spectrum was included in 3GPP specs for 5G operations. Ligado has also been working with Mavenir to develop base stations as part of its plan to deploy a 5G mobile satellite network for Internet of Things (IoT) connections, with trials of the services planned for 2022. The pair announced plans last year to work to establish open Radio Access Network (RAN)-compliant remote radio units and cloud-native Open RAN software compatible with Ligado’s L-band spectrum.

But scrutiny of Ligado’s spectrum and whether its terrestrial use will cause issues for precision GPS users in adjacent spectrum continues. In April 2020, the FCC voted unanimously to allow Ligado Networks to use its L-Band spectrum at 1.6 GHz to provide a low-power terrestrial network aimed at supporting private 5G and industrial internet of things services. Ligado, formerly known as Lightsquared, had been pressing the FCC to allow it to operate a terrestrial network since 2015.

In order to operate a terrestrial network, Ligado was granted a modification to its existing licenses, which cover 40 megahertz in the 1.6 GHz band, adjacent to some high-precision GPS providers and users; a group of nearly 100 users, such as Iridium Networks, have continued to protest that the changes to Ligado’s operations will harm their operations. The FCC decision was opposed by the Department of Defense and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration due to concerns about those neighboring GPS operations. Shortly after the FCC’s decision, NTIA asked the Commission to reconsider its action; one of the last actions of the FCC under former President Trump was to reject NTIA’s request for reconsideration and a stay. The possibility of the FCC reopening the subject came up in the thwarted renomination process of former commissioner Michael O’Rielly; he was ultimately replaced by Commissioner Nathan Simington.

The National Academies of Science has been tasked by Congress to do a review of the FCC’s order in regards to Ligado Networks’ operations and potential impacts to GPS. This was included in the FY2021 National Defense Authorization Act and the project was expected to take 15 months. In mid-November, the committee for the technical review was selected; it is chaired by J. Michael McQuade, a strategic advisor at Carnegie Mellon University and its former vice president for sesearch, and includes Jennifer Alvarez, CEO of Aurora Insight, and Preston Marshall, engineering director at Google, among other members.

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