The National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) joined with industry stakeholders in a petition filed May 22 requesting the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) reconsider its approval of Ligado Networks’ proposed high-speed broadband cellular network operating near frequency bands currently used by GPS and satellite communications (satcom) networks.
The petition identifies several concerns with the FCC’s April 20, 2020, order of approval for the nationwide 5G cellular service, including Ligado’s failure to sufficiently demonstrate its ability to act as a “good neighbor” and not interfere with other frequencies. The petition also questions the FCC’s decision to move forward with its approval in light of the nationwide COVID-19 crisis with no public review of the draft order beforehand.
Petitioners further challenged the FCC’s acceptance of FAA testing of the network’s effects on GPS signals despite the latter agency’s admission of flaws with its testing protocols. “The order relied on an FAA analysis that the agency itself stated was limited and incomplete for common operational scenarios near the ground,” the petition read, “including over dense urban areas, where interference would jeopardize life and property both in the air and on the surface of the earth.”
Formerly known as LightSquared, Ligado has twice failed since 2012 to win approval for deployment of its low-power 5G network. The company claims it has since limited GPS signal disruptions to within close proximity to transmission towers, which Ligado maintains should mitigate interference concerns. However, NBAA Chief Operating Officer Steve Brown reaffirmed that any impact to existing GPS and satcom signals carries significant safety implications.
“Given our national airspace system’s extensive use of GPS, including ADS-B-enabled air traffic control services and GPS-supported terrain warning systems, any question of even the slightest risk of interference should have been enough to pause this approval process,” he said. “We believe the FCC should promptly reconsider its order and the methods by which it was granted.”
Other signatories to the petition include the Aerospace Industries Association (AIA); Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA); Airlines 4 America (A4A); Aviation Spectrum Resources, Inc. (ASRI); Cargo Airline Association (CAA); General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA); Helicopter Association International (HAI); International Air Transport Association (IATA) and National Air Transportation Association (NATA).