Ligado Won’t Conduct L-Band Trial in Virginia

UPDATE Ligado Networks told the FCC this week it won’t go through with a planned trial deployment on its L-band spectrum in northern Virginia. In a letter to the agency, Ligado told the Commission it needs time to discuss with NTIA how “to resolve in a fair and reasonable manner issues relating to the government’s ongoing use of Ligado’s terrestrial spectrum.”

Ligado made the decision following a report released by the National Academies of Sciences found that while most GPS receivers won’t face interference from Ligado’s wireless network, Iridium’s mobile satellite services used by the DoD would likely see “harmful interference.” So would some older GPS receivers, Inside Towers reported. 

In 2020, the FCC approved Ligado’s application to develop a 5G terrestrial network in L-band, next to frequencies used by GPS and satellite communications. The agency made the decision over the objections of NTIA, DoD, and other federal security agencies.  

In March, Ligado said it planned to conduct trials in the 1526–1536 MHz band on or after September 30, Inside Towers reported. It said it was giving GPS users an FCC-required six months’ notice.

Commenting on the National Academies of Sciences report, the DoD said it confirms its “long standing view that Ligado’s system will interfere with critical GPS receivers and that it is impractical to mitigate the impact of that interference.” The DoD also extended an olive branch, noting it “looks forward to continuing to work with the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, FCC and Ligado on this complex and important issue.”

An Iridium spokesperson told Nextgov the study, “clearly demonstrates what the rest of the industry has known for years: the prior FCC order failed to fully consider the risk of harmful interference posed to mission-critical satellite systems.” 

After the National Academies of Sciences report came out, Ligado said the study confirmed the FCC’s findings that its operations can coexist with most GPS operations. “Now that the review is completed, it is our sincere hope the DoD and the NTIA will stop blocking Ligado’s license authority and focus instead on working with Ligado to resolve potential impacts relating to all DoD systems, including but not limited to GPS,” Ligado stated.

By Leslie Stimson, Inside Towers Washington Bureau Chief

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Spectrum reallocation is only getting more complicated, as the airwaves get more crowded. There are certainly recent examples—the C-Band deployment delays and the ongoing dispute over Ligado’s spectrum use potentially impacting Department of Defense operations—where better and earlier collaboration between federal agencies might have headed off some of the resultant […]


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