The Federal Communications Commission rejected by a vote of 3-2 on Tuesday to freeze the rollout of Ligado Networks’ nationwide mobile broadband network.
In May, the U.S. Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration filed a request with the FCC on behalf of executive branch agencies, including the Defense and Transportation departments, arguing the commission’s approval would cause “irreparable harms to federal government users” of global positioning systems (GPS).
Outgoing FCC chairman Ajit Pai stated it “imposed stringent conditions” to protect incumbent users in the band when it cleared Ligado Networks’ plan in April 2020, adding “the technical evidence in our record continues to demonstrate that the FCC made the correct decision”.
The FCC said Ligado’s deployment plans are not yet finalized and they were talking with the U.S. agencies about the network’s potential impact on government GPS systems.
The Air Line Pilots Association, the Association of Equipment Manufacturers, International Air Transport Association and Airlines for America, Iridium Communications and Lockheed Martin last year also filed petitions asking the FCC to reconsider.
The NTIA sought the FCC’s clearance in two separate petitions, one asking it to reconsider the decision and another seeking a block on Ligado Networks going ahead until the outcome of the first request was known.
The FCC noted that Ligado must give a six months’ notice to GPS manufacturers before activation, negotiate network partnership agreements, and secure $800 million in the capital markets to fund its infrastructure build-out.
FCC Commissioner Nathan Simington, who voted to reject the stay, said the agency is yet to go into the reconsideration request by all the government and private organizations but believed the bid was “unlikely to succeed on the merits”. He noted, Congress required a definitive technical review of the Ligado spectrum order by the National Academies of Sciences.
“There is sufficient time to develop a conclusive scientific record on broadly accepted standards and thus to make disinterested, rigorous public policy,” Simington said.
The Commission unanimously adopted its Order and Authorization in April 2020.
Ligado Networks raised $3.85 billion to fuel plans to deploy 5G services using L-band spectrum in October 2020. The company said it will use the money to integrate IoT technology into its satellite service capabilities and developing an “innovative private network solution” for the enterprise and industrial sectors.
The Wall Street Journal earlier reported that Ligado Networks was seeking fresh funding from investors to avoid filing for bankruptcy for a second time. It seems that it has amassed serious debt, which has matured as it waited for years to gain approval for L band from regulators.
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