US Secretary of Defense wants to protect GPS services against private L-Band spectrum 5G proposal

US Secretary of Defense wants to protect GPS services against private L-Band spectrum 5G proposal

US Secretary of Defense Mark Esper has asked the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to decline a proposal by the American satellite communications company Ligado Networks to use L-Band spectrum for 5G communication, insisting that the new technology could jeopardize GPS services.

Ligado Networks intends the utilize 40 MHz frequency in the L-Band spectrum for 5G services.

Esper wrote in a letter to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai on November 18, “I believe there are too many unknowns and the risks are far too great to federal operations to allow Ligado’s proposed system to proceed.”

“All independent and scientifically valid testing and technical data shows the potential for widespread disruption and degradation of GPS services from the proposed Ligado system,” Esper said.

“This could have a significant negative impact on military operations, both in peacetime and war,” Esper added.

Defense Insights Analysis

L-band refers to the operating frequency range of 1–2 GHz in the radio spectrum. It is one of the chief operating ranges used by various applications such as radars, global positioning systems (GPS), radio, telecommunications and aircraft surveillance.

The wavelength range of L-band is 30–15 cm. It has a low bandwidth due to its low frequency, and is the easiest to implement for many applications due to this low frequency.

In October 2018, the company made public its plans to launch a satellite loaded with 5G-enabling technologies and deploy a terrestrial 5G mobile network. The proposal is now under examination before the FCC, which needs to approve Ligado’s plan.

While that spectrum is licensed by the company, L-Band frequency is also the system that the US Air Force’s GPS satellites communicate.

The US Air Force employs GPS satellites to provide navigation, positioning and timing data.

Doug Smith, the company’s chief executive, said in a statement in June, “For the past three-and-a-half years, Ligado Networks has worked with industry and government stakeholders on a plan that will finally unlock our lower mid-band spectrum for 5G.”

“We have participated in testing, analysis, studies, workshops, reviews, and meetings, and time after time, we have accepted the burden to resolve concerns by modifying our plan. We have patiently waited for an FCC decision allowing our company to make additional investments that industries here in America so desperately need,” he added.

Matteo Natalucci

Matteo Natalucci is a geopolitics expert working as an Editor in London covering all aspects of international affairs and technology. Matteo previously worked for the United Nations, the European Commission, Thomson Reuters, Bloomberg, IHS Markit, and Global Data. Get in touch with the author: matteo.natalucci@internationalinsider.org
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