The FCC has been getting an earful about Ligado Networks’ proposed high-speed broadband cellular network. If it moves ahead, the network will be operating near frequency bands currently used by GPS and satellite communications networks.
The National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) recently joined a petition backed by heavyweights such as the Aerospace Industries Association (AIA); the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA); General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA); Helicopter Association International (HAI); International Air Transport Association (IATA); and National Air Transportation Association (NATA). The group fired off a petition requesting the FCC to reconsider Ligado’s approval. The group has serious concerns about Ligado’s track record acting as a “good neighbor,” and there’s worry that the service may interfere with other frequencies. The petition also raises the concern that, thanks to the COVID crisis, there was no public review of the draft order beforehand.
To add more fuel to the fire, the FAA itself admitted that testing relating to the network’s effects on GPS signals despite was flawed, categorizing it as “limited” and “incomplete” for common operational scenarios near the ground. That includes dense urban areas where interference would jeopardize life and property both in the air and on the ground.
Since 2012, Ligado (formerly known as LightSquared) has already failed twice to win approval for its low-power 5G network. The company now claims it has limited GPS signal disruptions, putting interference concerns to rest. However, NBAA Chief Operating Officer Steve Brown reaffirmed that any impact to existing GPS and satcom signals carries significant safety implications.
But given the aviation industry’s extensive use of GPS, including demands from ADS-B-enabled air traffic control services and GPS-supported terrain warning systems, even the smallest risk of interference is cause for industry concern.
Rest assured, we’ll be monitoring this situation closely on behalf of our clients.