Showing posts with label FCC. Show all posts
Showing posts with label FCC. Show all posts

Thursday, August 6, 2020

FCC sets bidding rules for December's auction of C-band spectrum

The FCC established final application and bidding procedures for the auction of 280 megahertz of mid-band spectrum for 5G and other advanced wireless services.

December's C-band auction will offer 5,684 new flexible-use overlay licenses based on Partial Economic Areas (PEAs) for spectrum in the 3.7–3.98 GHz band.  This spectrum holds the potential to be prime spectrum for 5G services, and the procedures adopted today will ensure the assignment to auction winners of contiguous spectrum blocks allowing wide channel bandwidths that support 5G deployment. 

In February, the FCC adopted rules for the C-band (3.7-4.2 GHz), which allocated the lower 280 megahertz (3.7-3.98 GHz band) for flexible terrestrial wireless services (with a 20-megahertz guard band (3.98-4.0 GHz)) and required existing satellite operators to repack their operations from the band’s entire 500 megahertz into the upper 200 megahertz (4.0-4.2 GHz).  Bidding in the auction, which is designated as Auction 107, will begin on December 8, 2020.

FCC approves C-Band spectrum rules

The Federal Communications Commission voted to approve new rules to accelerate the auction and transfer of a wide swath of 3.5 GHz spectrum from the satellite industry for new uses, including 5G.

The 280 megahertz of mid-band spectrum will be made available via a public auction.

Within the 3.7-4.2 GHz band, the FCC has is allocating the 3.7-4.0 GHz portion of the band for mobile use and 280 megahertz (3.7-3.98 GHz band) will be auctioned by the FCC for wireless services in the contiguous United States.  Another 20 megahertz (3.98-4.0 GHz) will serve as a guard band while existing satellite operations will be repacked into the upper 200 megahertz of the band (4.0-4.2 GHz).

Satellite operators will be able to receive accelerated relocation payments of $9.7 billion if they meet accelerated clearing milestones.

FCC expects to conduct an auction beginning on December 8, 2020.

In a statement, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai writes: "With respect to this principle of revenue for the federal government, it’s important to make a couple of points about accelerated relocation payments.  First, they will be made by wireless carriers, not the FCC and not the American taxpayer.  And second, to the extent they impact the proceeds of the auction at all, they are likely to increase those proceeds.  That’s because without a strong incentive for satellite operators to cooperate, it will take years longer to clear this spectrum, dramatically reducing the value of this spectrum opportunity to wireless bidders.  It’s like repainting your house before you sell it; yes, there are costs to doing that, but the costs are more than offset by the higher sales price.  And our conservative approach here means the costs of accelerated relocation are easily outweighed by the benefits to the Treasury (not to mention the public at large)..."

Monday, July 20, 2020

FCC to support infrastructure rules protecting historic properties

The FCC announced an agreement with the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation (ACHP) and the National Conference of State Historic Preservation Officers (NCSHPO) to support wireless infrastructure builds while continuing to protect historic properties.

The agreement amends the Nationwide Programmatic Agreement for the Collocation of Wireless Antennas (Collocation NPA) that the FCC, ACHP, and NCSHPO entered into in 2001.  The Collocation NPA establishes streamlined reviews for infrastructure projects covered by that agreement.

The amendment updates the review process for collocation (or adding wireless equipment at existing tower sites).  Previously, a collocation project that involved any excavation outside of the current tower site would not qualify for the streamlined review process established by the Collocation NPA.  That conflicted with the streamlined review process that applies when providers are taking down and replacing a wireless structure—a process that allows for deployment and excavation up to 30 feet outside of the existing site.  Today’s amendment resolves that inconsistency by bringing the Collocation NPA into conformance with the tower replacement review.

“This is a vitally important agreement to ensure our infrastructure policies can meet the challenges and opportunities of 5G,” said Commissioner Brendan Carr, who has led the Commission’s wireless infrastructure modernization efforts.  “It represents a commonsense approach to encouraging collocations where tower replacements are not necessary.  The FCC team and our partners at ACHP and NCSHPO worked closely, and I want to extend my thanks and appreciation for the time and good-faith efforts that enabled us to reach this agreement.”

Thursday, July 16, 2020

FCC to build a list of equipment seen to pose national security risk

The FCC began integrating portions of the Secure and Trusted Communications Networks Act, which was enacted in March 2020, into its existing supply chain rulemaking proceeding. 

The FCC has already acted to ban USF support for equipment and services produced or provided by companies that pose a national security threat, namely Huawei and ZTE. 

The accompanying Second Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking seeks public comment on implementing various aspects of the Secure Networks Act, including proposals to: (1) create and maintain the list of covered communications equipment and services required by the statute; (2) ban the use of federal subsidies, including USF funding, for any communications equipment or services placed on this list; (3) require all providers of advanced communications services to report on whether they use any covered communications equipment or services; and (4) prevent waste, fraud, and abuse in the reimbursement program that is required by the statute to remove and replace insecure equipment. 

Last month, the FCC’s Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau formally designated Huawei Technologies Company and ZTE Corporation and their parents, affiliates, and subsidiaries as covered companies for purposes of the agency’s November 2019 ban.  As a result of those designations, money from the FCC’s $8.3 billion a year USF may no longer be used to purchase, obtain, maintain, improve, modify, or otherwise support any equipment or services produced or provided by these two suppliers.

FCC expands rules for Z-axis location data in emergency calls

The FCC is expanding its efforts to help first responders quickly locate people who call 911 from wireless phones in multi-story buildings.

The Commission’s Enhanced 911 rules require wireless providers to transmit to 911 call centers information on the location of wireless 911 calls.  And they obligate wireless providers to meet an increasingly stringent series of location accuracy benchmarks in accordance with a timetable, including providing the caller’s dispatchable location (such as the street address and apartment number) or coordinate-based vertical (“z-axis”) location. 

In November 2019, the Commission established the z-axis location accuracy metric as plus or minus three meters relative to the handset for 80 percent of indoor wireless 911 calls.  Nationwide wireless providers must meet April 2021 and April 2023 deadlines for deploying z-axis technology, which must comply with the metric for accuracy, in the top 25 and 50 markets, respectively. 

In this action, the FCC affirmed the 2021 and 2023 z-axis requirements, rejecting a proposal to weaken them.  The Commission added a new requirement that nationwide wireless providers deploy z-axis technology nationwide by April 2025, while affording non-nationwide wireless providers an additional year (i.e., until April 2026) to do so within their service areas.  To give wireless providers additional flexibility in meeting these requirements while still advancing critical public safety objectives, the Commission allowed providers to deploy technologies that focus on multi-story buildings, where vertical location information is most vital to first responders.  The Commission also required wireless providers, beginning in January 2022, to provide dispatchable location with wireless 911 calls when it is technically feasible and cost-effective to do so, which will promote consistency in the Commission’s 911 rules across technology platforms. 


Tuesday, June 30, 2020

FCC designates Huawei and ZTE as National Security Threats

The FCC officially designated Huawei and ZTE, as well as their parents, affiliates, and subsidiaries, as national security threats.

As a result of the designation, money from the FCC’s $8.3 billion a year Universal Service Fund may no longer be used to purchase, obtain, maintain, improve, modify, or otherwise support any equipment or services produced or provided by either company. 

“With today’s Orders, and based on the overwhelming weight of evidence, the Bureau has designated Huawei and ZTE as national security risks to America’s communications networks—and to our 5G future,” said FCC Chairman Ajit Pai.  “Both companies have close ties to the Chinese Communist Party and China’s military apparatus, and both companies are broadly subject to Chinese law obligating them to cooperate with the country’s intelligence services.  The Bureau also took into account the findings and actions of Congress, the Executive Branch, the intelligence community, our allies, and communications service providers in other countries.  We cannot and will not allow the Chinese Communist Party to exploit network vulnerabilities and compromise our critical communications infrastructure.  Today’s action will also protect the FCC’s Universal Service Fund—money that comes from fees paid by American consumers and businesses on their phone bills—from being used to underwrite these suppliers, which threaten our national security.”


  • In November 2019, the FCC unanimously adopted a ban on the use of universal service support to purchase, obtain, or maintain any equipment or services produced or provided by companies posing a national security threat to the integrity of communications networks or the communications supply chain.  


Tuesday, June 9, 2020

FCC acts to streamline 5G upgrades by limiting local review

The FCC is clarifying rules regarding state and local government review of modifications to existing wireless infrastructure.  The action is expected to expedite the rollout of 5G networks by limiting state and local government review of certain requests to modify wireless transmission equipment on existing structures.

Specifically, the Declaratory Ruling adopted today clarifies the Commission’s 2014 rules with regard to when the 60-day shot clock for local review begins.  The ruling also clarifies how certain aspects of proposed modifications – height increases, equipment cabinet additions, and impact on concealment elements and aesthetic conditions – affect eligibility for streamlined review under section 6409(a).  In addition, today’s action clarifies that, under the Commission’s rules on environmental and historic preservation review,  FCC applicants do not need to submit environmental assessments based only on potential impacts to historic properties when parties have entered into a memorandum of agreement to mitigate effects on those properties. 

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai states: "Promoting American leadership in 5G wireless technology has been one of my top priorities since becoming Chairman.  To that end, the FCC has been executing my 5G FAST plan, which includes three key components: pushing more spectrum into the marketplace, making it easier to deploy wireless infrastructure, and modernizing outdated regulations to expedite the deployment of fiber for wireless backhaul....Of course, in addition to pushing more spectrum into the marketplace, a key component of the Commission’s 5G FAST strategy has been updating our wireless infrastructure policies to encourage private-sector investment in the physical building blocks of 5G networks.  And today’s Declaratory Ruling and Notice of Proposed Rulemaking does just that."

FCC Commisssioner writes: "If we want to see infrastructure expand broadly and equitably across this country it takes federal and state and local authorities working together to do so.  History proves this is true.  And in these historic times this agency should not be ramrodding this effort through without listening to cities and towns across the country.  They called for a bit more time.  But the Federal Communications Commission hung up.  I dissent." 

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Intelsat opts into FCC accelerated C-band clearing plan

Intelsat filed a written commitment with the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to accelerate clearing of the U.S. C-band spectrum. Intelsat completed the filing in advance of the FCC’s May 29 deadline.

“Intelsat has been connecting Americans with technology for more than half a century. Our expertise, innovation, and technology investments have played a critical role in driving America’s economic and national security edge for the last five decades”

In March, the FCC finalized its Expanding Flexible Use of the 3.7 to 4.2 GHz Band order, which requires the lower 280 megahertz of the 3.7 to 4.2 gigahertz C-band spectrum, plus a 20 megahertz guard band, to be cleared and repurposed for use by 5G services, by relocating existing satellite services to the upper part of the band.

“As the foundational architects of satellite technology and leading experts of integrated communications technologies, Intelsat is committed to advancing – at an accelerated pace – America’s position in the race to 5G. With decades-deep institutional knowledge of the U.S. C-band, we understand what’s required to successfully and quickly transition current users, while maintaining high-quality, uninterrupted broadcast to more than 100 million American homes and businesses,” said Intelsat Chief Executive Officer Stephen Spengler.

“Intelsat has been connecting Americans with technology for more than half a century. Our expertise, innovation, and technology investments have played a critical role in driving America’s economic and national security edge for the last five decades,” continued Spengler. “We embrace America’s drive to adopt 5G and recognize the important role that Intelsat will play in accelerating the clearing of the C-Band spectrum to ensure the U.S. maintains its leadership in 5G and other advanced telecommunications technologies for decades to come.”

FCC approves C-Band spectrum rules

The Federal Communications Commission voted to approve new rules to accelerate the auction and transfer of a wide swath of 3.5 GHz spectrum from the satellite industry for new uses, including 5G.

The 280 megahertz of mid-band spectrum will be made available via a public auction.

Within the 3.7-4.2 GHz band, the FCC has is allocating the 3.7-4.0 GHz portion of the band for mobile use and 280 megahertz (3.7-3.98 GHz band) will be auctioned by the FCC for wireless services in the contiguous United States.  Another 20 megahertz (3.98-4.0 GHz) will serve as a guard band while existing satellite operations will be repacked into the upper 200 megahertz of the band (4.0-4.2 GHz).

Satellite operators will be able to receive accelerated relocation payments of $9.7 billion if they meet accelerated clearing milestones.

FCC expects to conduct an auction beginning on December 8, 2020.

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

FCC opens some 900 MHz spectrum

The FCC will make six megahertz of 900 MHz band spectrum available for wireless broadband technologies and services.  The 900 MHz band is currently designated for narrowband land mobile radio communications and primarily used by land transportation, utility, manufacturing, and petrochemical companies. 

The six megahertz will be available for broadband licenses on a county-by-county basis while reserving the remaining four megahertz of spectrum for continued narrowband operations.
provide crucial services to the American public.

Specifically, the Commission approved a Report and Order, an Order of Proposed Modification, and two Orders that realign the band and establish a transition mechanism based primarily on negotiations between prospective broadband licensees and existing narrowband incumbent licensees.  The item also establishes rules to prevent broadband applicants from receiving windfalls and includes application requirements and operating and technical rules applicable to the new 900 MHz broadband licenses.

In addition, the item would modify the Association of American Railroads’ existing nationwide ribbon license in the 900 MHz band to facilitate the transition of the band without disruptions to railroads’ operations, and to enable significant railroad safety upgrades.

As part of today’s action, the Commission also announces a partial lifting of the 900 MHz application freeze to permit existing licensees to file applications to relocate their narrowband operations as part of a transition plan.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai writes: "900 MHz users are enthusiastic about the possibilities that reliable broadband will open for them.  Broadband access will enable industries to leverage technologies for applications like private LTE networks—next-generation networks that can enable Voice over LTE, grid resiliency and monitoring, wildfire mitigation, enhanced cybersecurity, and more.  Utilities are eager to use broadband to modernize the electric grid.  Southern California Edison, a utility in a state hard-hit by fires in recent years, predicts that broadband will enable innovative monitoring technologies that will help utilities detect and extinguish fires caused by downed power lines." 

Thursday, April 30, 2020

Keep Americans Connected Pledge extended through June 30

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai announced an extension of the Keep Americans Connected Pledge through June 30.

The Keep Americans Connected Pledge includes:

  • not terminate service to any residential or small business customers because of their inability to pay their bills due to the disruptions caused by the coronavirus pandemic;
  • waive any late fees that any residential or small business customers incur because of their economic circumstances related to the coronavirus pandemic; and
  • open its Wi-Fi hotspots to any American who needs them.

“Hundreds of providers have stepped up to the plate to keep Americans connected to communications services in this time of need,” said Chairman Pai. “This includes the largest and some of the smallest providers across the country. I salute them for making broadband available to Americans who increasingly rely on it for work, school, healthcare, and communicating with loved ones. And given our nation’s current situation, I’m urging these companies to extend these important offerings—uninterrupted service, waiving of late fees, and continued availability of Wi-Fi hotspots—until June 30. Companies representing the vast majority of broadband and telephone subscriptions have already agreed to this extension. I thank them for stepping up to the plate once again during this national emergency, and I encourage others to do so as well.”

Sunday, April 26, 2020

FCC prepares to revoke US operating authority of Chinese carriers

The Federal Communications Commission issued Show Cause Orders to China Telecom Americas, China Unicom Americas, Pacific Networks, and ComNet. The order provides a 30-day period for the carriers to explain why the FCC should not initiate proceedings to revoke their authority to operate in the U.S.

Commissioner Carr issued the following statement:

“Last year, when we blocked China Mobile from entering the U.S. market based on national security concerns, I said it was time for a top to bottom review of every telecom carrier with ties to the communist regime in China.  I am pleased with the progress we are making on that front, as evidenced by today’s Show Cause orders. Over the past few weeks, Americans have learned that they no longer need to page through dusty foreign policy magazines to understand the consequences that flow from communist China’s brutal crackdown on freedom and free speech.  The communist party’s silencing of critics and its disappearance of hero doctors and citizen journalists exacerbated the global spread of Covid-19.  Americans are now experiencing the consequences of those oppressive actions in their own lives—whether in the loss of their jobs or their kids not being able to attend school due to Covid-19.

“Since communist China is willing to disappear its own people to advance the regime’s geopolitical agenda, it is appropriate for the FCC to closely scrutinize telecom carriers with ties to that regime.  This is a prudent step to ensure the security of America’s telecom networks.  In the Show Cause orders issued today, we give carriers 30 days to explain why the FCC should not initiate proceedings to revoke their authority.  They now have the opportunity to provide evidence showing that they are not subject to the exploitation, influence, and control of the Chinese government such that we should not look to revoke their authority to operate in the U.S.  I look forward to reviewing the record that develops and reaching a final decision on those key issues.”


  • China Telecom Americas, which is the largest subsidiary of China Telecom Corporation, has its headquarters in Herndon, Virginia, and offices in Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, New York, San Jose, Toronto and São Paulo. 
  • It owns and operates three Tier 1 global networks: ChinaNet (AS 4134), CN2 (AS 4809) and CTG Net (AS 36778)
  • It is a partial owner of several trans-Pacific cable systems, including China-U.S., Japan-U.S., SEA-ME-WE3 in APCN2, SMW3, SMW5, FASTER, Flag, TAE, and others. 



FCC updates satellite orbital debris rules

The FCC updated its satellite rules on orbital debris mitigation for the first time since 2004.

Specifically, the new rules improve the specificity and clarity of rules that require disclosure of debris mitigation plans by satellite companies.  The changes include requiring that satellite applicants assign numerical values to collision risk, probability of successful post-mission disposal, and casualty risk associated with those satellites that will re-enter earth’s atmosphere.  Satellite applicants will also have new disclosure requirements related to protecting inhabitable spacecraft, maneuverability, use of deployment devices, release of persistent liquids, proximity operations, trackability and identification, and information sharing for situational awareness.  The new rules also update the process for geostationary orbit satellite license term extension requests.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai stated "Today, for the first time in 15 years, we are adopting new rules to mitigate the threat posed by orbital debris, including regulations involving satellite design, better disposal procedures, and active collision avoidance.  15 years is an eternity in this fast-moving sector, and the time has come to address this critical issue.  The rules that we adopt today take a balanced approach: mitigating the risk posed by orbital debris, while at the same time continuing to light a regulatory path for space-based innovation." 

Thursday, April 23, 2020

FCC advances planning for $9 billion 5G Fund for Rural America

The FCC is proposing to distribute up to $9 billion through the Universal Service Fund across rural America for 5G wireless broadband connectivity.  The 5G Fund would help ensure that rural Americans enjoy the same benefits from our increasingly digital economy as their urban counterparts—more than 200 million of whom already have access to major providers’ 5G networks—and would include a special focus on deployments that support precision agriculture.

The newly adopted Notice proposes to make available up to $8 billion in Phase I to support deployment of 5G networks in rural areas that are unlikely to see timely deployment without this support or as part of the T-Mobile transaction deployment commitments.  The second phase would target at least $1 billion in support to bring wireless connectivity to harder to serve and higher cost areas, including farms and ranches, to help facilitate adoption of connected precision agriculture technologies.

The 5G Fund for Rural America would use a competitive reverse auction format to award funding for wireless broadband services, building on the success of the FCC’s recent Connect America Fund Phase II auction and the design for the upcoming Rural Digital Opportunity Fund Phase I auction.  The Notice seeks comment on two different approaches to identifying eligible areas for the Phase I reverse auction:  One approach would hold an auction in 2021 by defining eligible areas based on current data sources that identify areas as particularly rural and thus in the greatest need of universal service support and prioritize funding to areas that have historically lacked 4G LTE or even 3G service.  An alternative option would delay the 5G Fund Phase I auction until at least 2023, after collecting and processing improved mobile broadband coverage data through the Commission’s new Digital Opportunity Data Collection.   The proposed 5G Fund budget also includes $680 million reserved to support 5G networks serving Tribal lands as part of Phase I.

https://www.fcc.gov/5G

Monday, April 20, 2020

FCC approves Ligado for low-power L-band terrestrial network

The FCC voted unanimously to approve with conditions Ligado’s application to deploy a low-power terrestrial nationwide network in the L-Band that will primarily support 5G and Internet of Things services. 

“I thank my colleagues for coming together on a bipartisan basis to support Ligado’s application,” said Chairman Pai.  “The vote at the Commission reflects the broad, bipartisan support that this order has received, from Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Attorney General William Barr on the one hand to Senator Mark Warner of Virginia and Congresswoman Doris Matsui of California on the other.  This vote is another step forward for American leadership in 5G and advanced wireless services.”

Among the conditions that Ligado must abide by:

  • Ligado must provide a significant (23 megahertz) guard-band using its own licensed spectrum to separate its terrestrial base station transmissions from neighboring operations in the Radionavigation-Satellite Service allocation. 
  • Ligado is required to limit the power levels of its base stations to 9.8 dBW, a reduction of 99.3% from the power levels proposed in Ligado’s 2015 application. 
  • Ligado must protect adjacent band incumbents by reporting its base station locations and technical operating parameters to potentially affected government and industry stakeholders prior to commencing operations, continuously monitoring the transmit power of its base station sites, and complying with procedures and actions for responding to credible reports of interference, including rapid shutdown of operations where warranted. 


  • Ligado Networks is a privately-backed company based in Reston, Virginia, with investors including Centerbridge Partners, Fortress Investment Group and JPMorgan Chase & Co. From the big hitting industry execs on the leadership team it is clear the company is serious. Ivan Seidenberg, a former chairman of Verizon Communications, serves as chairman. Also on the board of directors is Timothy Donahue, former executive chairman of Sprint Nextel and former president and CEO of Nextel Communications, and Reed Hundt, the former Federal Communications Commission. Doug Smith serves as Ligado's president and CEO; he is known for his work in engineering and launching nationwide networks for GTE, Nextel, Sprint Nextel and Clearwire.

Thursday, April 16, 2020

FCC Chairman favors Ligado's bid for low-power L-band terrestrial network

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai circulated  a draft order that would approve with conditions Ligado’s application to deploy a low-power terrestrial nationwide network in the L-Band that would primarily support 5G and Internet of Things services. 

“After many years of consideration, it is time for the FCC to make a decision and bring this proceeding to a close,” said Chairman Pai.  “We have compiled an extensive record, which confirms that it is in the public interest to grant Ligado’s application while imposing stringent conditions to prevent harmful interference.  The draft order that I have presented to my colleagues would make more efficient use of underused spectrum and promote the deployment of 5G and Internet of Things services.

In recent years, Ligado has amended its application to significantly reduce the power levels of its base stations from 32 dBW to 9.8 dBW (a reduction of 99.3%).  Ligado has also committed to providing a significant (23 megahertz) guard-band using its own licensed spectrum to further separate its terrestrial base station transmissions from neighboring operations in the Radionavigation-Satellite Service allocation.  As such, Ligado is now only seeking terrestrial use of the 1526-1536 MHz, 1627.5-1637.5 MHz, and 1646.5-1656.5 MHz bands.  The Order is conditioned to reflect these technical requirements.  It also requires Ligado to protect adjacent band incumbents by reporting its base station locations and technical operating parameters to potentially affected government and industry stakeholders prior to commencing operations, continuously monitoring the transmit power of its base station sites, and complying with procedures and actions for responding to credible reports of interference, including rapid shutdown of operations where warranted.

Doug Smith, President & Chief Executive Officer of Ligado, stated: "Since the very beginning of its long, comprehensive and collaborative analysis of the technical issues presented by Ligado's application, the FCC's dedicated staff has repeatedly shown its commitment to science-based, engineering-driven decision making, and Chairman's Pai's circulation of the Order regarding our license modification applications is the most recent example of this. The central importance of mid-band – especially our lower mid-band – to 5G is well-known. As Ericsson and Nokia technical studies on our proposed network deployment have shown, the superior propagation characteristics of our spectrum will improve mobile 5G coverage – both outdoor and indoor – and in doing so, accelerate the deployment of 5G networks. Ligado is committed to the twin goals of protecting GPS while delivering highly secure and ultra-reliable communications to accelerate next-generation technologies and the Industrial Internet of Things."


Ligado Networks is a privately-backed company based in Reston, Virginia, with investors including Centerbridge Partners, Fortress Investment Group and JPMorgan Chase & Co. From the big hitting industry execs on the leadership team it is clear the company is serious. Ivan Seidenberg, a former chairman of Verizon Communications, serves as chairman. Also on the board of directors is Timothy Donahue, former executive chairman of Sprint Nextel and former president and CEO of Nextel Communications, and Reed Hundt, the former Federal Communications Commission. Doug Smith serves as Ligado's president and CEO; he is known for his work in engineering and launching nationwide networks for GTE, Nextel, Sprint Nextel and Clearwire.

Picking up the pieces from LightSquared, SkyTerra and Mobile Satellite Ventures

Ligado Networks, previously known as LightSquared, emerged from bankruptcy reorganisation in 2016 with a new plan, or rather a new version of an old plan. The company controls 40 MHz of nationwide spectrum licenses in the L-Band (1500 to 1700 MHz), which it acquired in 2010 through its purchase of SkyTerra, another bold start-up that envisioned transforming the U.S. mobile scene with satellite communications.

Prior to 2008, SkyTerra was known as Mobile Satellite Ventures and had successfully operated the MSAT-1 and MSAT-2 satellites for over a decade. As 4G LTE technologies neared, the company set its sights and going big. The business plan evolved from pure mobile satellite to a hybrid design where the satellite connectivity would be used to augment terrestrial mobile communications. This would mean using the same spectrum bands from ground based base station as well as from the satellite. The company changed its name to SkyTerra and was acquired by Philip Falcone's Harbinger Capital Partners acquired SkyTerra in March 2010. Harbinger invested about $2.9 billion in assets and soon raised more than $2.3 billion in debt and equity financing.

SkyTerra soon became known for its massive SkyTerra 1 satellite, which weighed a record 6,910 kg. The satellite was built at Space Systems/Loral's Palo Alto, California facility. It operates in two 10 MHz blocks of contiguous MSS spectrum in the 2 GHz band throughout the U.S. and Canada. Notably, the satellite uniquely features an 18-metre reflector and an S-band feed array with 500 spot beams. In November 2010, SkyTerra 1 was successfully launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

SkyTerra changed its name to LightSquared and in January 2011 was granted a conditional waiver by the FCC to test its network if it could be shown that the service would not interfere with GPS signals. This alarmed many GPS advocates, who argued that the L-band spectrum was simply too close to its own and that even a little interference could have serious consequences for the military, aviation, agriculture and other vertical sectors that rely on precise navigation.

In February 2012, the company received its greatest setback when the FCC withdrew its conditional approval for LightSquared network due to the potential interference concerns with GPS receivers. In June 2012, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filed securities fraud charges against Philip Falcone and Harbinger Capital Partners; the case was settled in June 2013. For LightSquared, the game was over and it was soon forced into the bankruptcy courts. In addition to the technical, legal and financial challenges, LighSquared also faced allegations of political favouritism. Nevertheless, it still had the spectrum licenses and a fully functional Skyterra1 satellite parked in geostationary orbit.

Ligado Network is the new entity that in December 2015 emerged from this decade-long mess. Significantly, the company reached a settlement with the GPS industry on a technical plan to avoid interference issues by reducing the transmission power. It is not clear why a similar compromise could not have been reached in 2012. Ligado is now awaiting clearance from the FCC.

Ligado looks for its market

So back to square one, and Ligado Networks is now moving ahead with the plan to combine Skyterra1 satellite coverage with a ground-based network should FCC approval come. The goal is a ubiquitous national network whose footprint requires far fewer ground-based towers than would otherwise be required for universal coverage. The company says its mid-band spectrum is well suited for things that move, such as planes, trains and automobiles.

In its original iteration, LightSquared aimed to either compete with or partner with 4G LTE mobile services. At least one mobile handset model was developed that incorporated specialised silicon for tuning in the L-band frequency in addition to standard cellular bands. It seemed that a distribution partnership with AT&T was also in the works. For consumers, this would have meant being able to use the AT&T LTE network where available and then seamlessly roam onto the SkyTerra1 satellite service when that signal was stronger. Unfortunately, this handset was based on an old Nokia design and was not an iPhone or Android device. Even without the legal and financial issues, this business plan was not going to work.

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

FCC Chair Ajit Pai proposes 1,200 Megahertz for Unlicensed Use

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai is proposing to make 1,200 megahertz of spectrum available for unlicensed use in the 6 GHz band. 

If adopted, the draft Report and Order would authorize two different types of unlicensed operations: standard-power in 850-megahertz of the band and indoor low-power operations over the full 1,200-megahertz available in the 6 GHz band.  An automated frequency coordination system would prevent standard power access points from operating where they could cause interference to incumbent services. 

“From Wi-Fi routers to home appliances, Americans’ everyday use of devices that connect to the Internet over unlicensed spectrum has exploded,” said Chairman Pai.  “That trend will only continue.  Cisco projects that nearly 60% of global mobile data traffic will be off-loaded to Wi-Fi by 2022.  To accommodate that increase in Wi-Fi demand, the FCC is aiming to increase the supply of Wi-Fi spectrum with our boldest initiative yet: making the entire 6 GHz band available for unlicensed use.  By doing this, we would effectively increase the amount of spectrum available for Wi-Fi almost by a factor of five.  This would be a huge benefit to consumers and innovators across the nation.  It would be another step toward increasing the capacity of our country’s networks.  And it would help advance even further our leadership in next generation wireless technologies, including 5G.”

The Chairman’s draft rules will be voted on by the Commission at the FCC’s Open Meeting on April 23.

Some industry reaction:

Aruba's Keerti Melkote: "The runaway success of Wi-Fi in the last couple decades represents the power of unlicensed spectrum, open standards and unfettered innovation. The FCC’s forward-looking action to allocate the largest block of mid-band spectrum for unlicensed use builds on its success in creating the Wi-Fi industry and promises to usher in the next era of unconstrained American innovation for the global markets."

Boingo's Dr. Derek Peterson: “The expansion of Wi-Fi into the 6 GHz band provides exciting new real estate that lays the foundation for continued wireless innovation. The significant swath of contiguous spectrum is well suited to facilitate Wi-Fi’s skyrocketing growth, and will enable Boingo to maximize the benefits of neutral host Wi-Fi 6 deployments at major airports, stadiums, military bases and multifamily communities.”

Broadcom's Henry Samueli: “Today’s announcement by Chairman Ajit Pai that the Commission will vote to open 1,200 MHz of unlicensed spectrum in the 6 GHz band positions the U.S. to lead the world in next-generation 5G services. All Americans could soon have Wi-Fi in a pristine, wireless superhighway to deliver digitally immersive experiences including in education and telemedicine."

Cisco's Chuck Robbins: “All of us at Cisco congratulate FCC Chairman Ajit Pai for his leadership in moving forward with a 6 GHz spectrum plan that will be the backbone of American jobs and the economy. Across the country, Wi-Fi networks on unlicensed spectrum are supporting first responders, hospitals, telehealth, remote learning, and remote work at unprecedented levels. Chairman Pai’s decision to unleash the full potential of Wi-Fi alongside 5G could not come at a more important time. We’re excited to help build an internet for the future and look forward to the FCC’s vote.”

CTIA's Brad Gillen: “We support the FCC’s efforts to make the lower half of the 6 GHz band available for unlicensed use and will continue to work closely with the commission to ensure rigorous protections for licensed services already existing in the band. While the FCC has done a remarkable job freeing up critical licensed spectrum for 5G, the United States faces a growing mid-band deficit. It is essential that the FCC and the administration develop a roadmap to close this deficit before moving forward with plans to give away the full 1200 MHz in the 6 GHz band and further limit our few remaining options.”

Qualcomm’s Steve Mollenkopf: "Qualcomm fully supports the FCC’s plan to allocate the 6 GHz band for advanced unlicensed operations at its April 23rd meeting.  We applaud FCC Chairman Pai and his fellow FCC Commissioners for this initiative, which will provide American consumers with better, faster broadband for so many uses, including telemedicine, remote learning and working, fully immersive augmented and virtual reality, & the Internet of Things.  In February, we demonstrated a full suite of Wi Fi 6E products ready to start using this large new swath of spectrum.  We are also optimizing other exciting new technologies for this large swath of spectrum, including the next version of 5G and next generation Wi-Fi.  Today’s announcement is another important step taken by the FCC to ensuring American leadership in the key 21st Century enabling technologies."

Thursday, March 26, 2020

FCC grants AWS-4 spectrum access to AT&T in Puerto Rico

The FCC’s Wireless Telecommunications Bureau granted Special Temporary Authority to AT&T to use AWS-4 spectrum, currently licensed to DISH, for 60 days to expand its network capacity in Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands during the coronavirus pandemic. 

“Staying connected while staying apart is the reality right now across America during this pandemic, and that is no less true for those living in Puerto Rico and U.S Virgin Islands,” said FCC Chairman Ajit Pai.  “We have put a special emphasis on helping those on the islands stay connected following the terrible storms that hit them in recent years.  And we continue that work today in a new kind of emergency.  I thank DISH for consenting to this use of its spectrum and to the U.S. Department of Justice for its cooperation.  I’m grateful to AT&T for requesting this STA and I’m pleased we can grant it.”

Saturday, March 14, 2020

Ajit Pai's Keep Americans Connected Pledge endorsed by carriers

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai solicited pledges from the U.S. network operators to ensure availability of network services during the COVID-19 national emergency

The Keep Americans Connected Pledge reads as follows:

Given the coronavirus pandemic and its impact on American society, [[Company Name]] pledges for the next 60 days to:

  1. not terminate service to any residential or small business customers because of their inability to pay their bills due to the disruptions caused by the coronavirus pandemic;
  2. waive any late fees that any residential or small business customers incur because of their economic circumstances related to the coronavirus pandemic; and
  3. open its Wi-Fi hotspots to any American who needs them.

The following companies immediately agree to the Keep Americans Connected Pledge: ACIRA – Powered by Farmers Mutual Telephone Company & Federated Telephone, Allstream Business US, AlticeUSA, Antietam Broadband, Atlantic Broadband, AT&T, BBT, BOYCOM Vision, Burlington Telecom, Cable One, Central Arkansas Telephone Cooperative, CenturyLink, Charter, Cincinnati Bell, Citizens Connected, Comcast, Consolidated Communications, Cox Communications, Digital West, East Ascension Telephone Company, Education Networks of America, Emery Telecom, Farmers Telecommunications Cooperative, FirstLight, Frontier, Google Fiber, Grande Communications, Granite Telecommunications, Great Plains Communications, GWI, Hiawatha Broadband, Hill Country, IdeaTek Telcom, Inteliquent, Lafourche Telephone Company, Lakeland Communications, Long Lines Broadband, Mammoth Networks/Visionary Broadband, Mediacom, MetTel, Nex-Tech, Ninestar Connect, Northwest Fiber, Orbitel Communications, Pioneer Communications, Premier Communications, Range Telephone Cooperative, RCN, Reserve Telephone Company, Sacred Wind Communications, Shawnee Communications, Socket Telecom, Sonic, Sprint, Starry, TDS Telecom, TelNet Worldwide, T-Mobile, TracFone Wireless, Uniti Fiber, US Cellular, Vast Broadband, Verizon, Vyve Broadband Investments, Waitsfield and Champlain Valley Telecom, Wave Broadband, West Telecom Services, Windstream, and ZenFi Networks.

“As the coronavirus outbreak spreads and causes a series of disruptions to the economic, educational, medical, and civic life of our country, it is imperative that Americans stay connected.  Broadband will enable them to communicate with their loved ones and doctors, telework, ensure their children can engage in remote learning, and—importantly—take part in the ‘social distancing’ that will be so critical to limiting the spread of this novel coronavirus,” said Chairman Pai.  “That’s why I’m asking all broadband and telephone service providers to take the Keep Americans Connected Pledge.  I don’t want any American consumers experiencing hardships because of the pandemic to lose connectivity.

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

SES and Telesat support FCC’s C-band Order

SES and Telesat, as founding members of the C-Band Alliance, applauded the FCC's final C-band Report and Order.

"We congratulate the Commission on striking the right balance to ensure accelerated access to the spectrum with appropriate incentives, providing an effective transition framework, and adequately protecting critical satellite services for customers and earth station operators."

FCC approves C-Band spectrum rules

The Federal Communications Commission voted to approve new rules to accelerate the auction and transfer of a wide swath of 3.5 GHz spectrum from the satellite industry for new uses, including 5G.

The 280 megahertz of mid-band spectrum will be made available via a public auction.

Within the 3.7-4.2 GHz band, the FCC has is allocating the 3.7-4.0 GHz portion of the band for mobile use and 280 megahertz (3.7-3.98 GHz band) will be auctioned by the FCC for wireless services in the contiguous United States.  Another 20 megahertz (3.98-4.0 GHz) will serve as a guard band while existing satellite operations will be repacked into the upper 200 megahertz of the band (4.0-4.2 GHz).

Satellite operators will be able to receive accelerated relocation payments of $9.7 billion if they meet accelerated clearing milestones.

FCC expects to conduct an auction beginning on December 8, 2020.

Sunday, March 1, 2020

FCC approves C-Band spectrum rules

The Federal Communications Commission voted to approve new rules to accelerate the auction and transfer of a wide swath of 3.5 GHz spectrum from the satellite industry for new uses, including 5G.

The 280 megahertz of mid-band spectrum will be made available via a public auction.

Within the 3.7-4.2 GHz band, the FCC has is allocating the 3.7-4.0 GHz portion of the band for mobile use and 280 megahertz (3.7-3.98 GHz band) will be auctioned by the FCC for wireless services in the contiguous United States.  Another 20 megahertz (3.98-4.0 GHz) will serve as a guard band while existing satellite operations will be repacked into the upper 200 megahertz of the band (4.0-4.2 GHz).

Satellite operators will be able to receive accelerated relocation payments of $9.7 billion if they meet accelerated clearing milestones. 

FCC expects to conduct an auction beginning on December 8, 2020.

In a statement, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai writes: "With respect to this principle of revenue for the federal government, it’s important to make a couple of points about accelerated relocation payments.  First, they will be made by wireless carriers, not the FCC and not the American taxpayer.  And second, to the extent they impact the proceeds of the auction at all, they are likely to increase those proceeds.  That’s because without a strong incentive for satellite operators to cooperate, it will take years longer to clear this spectrum, dramatically reducing the value of this spectrum opportunity to wireless bidders.  It’s like repainting your house before you sell it; yes, there are costs to doing that, but the costs are more than offset by the higher sales price.  And our conservative approach here means the costs of accelerated relocation are easily outweighed by the benefits to the Treasury (not to mention the public at large)..."

"But as to its timing, there are some who argue that we should wait—indefinitely.  They complain that we are refusing to sit on our hands and wait for Congress to legislate.  It’s at once amusing and astounding that some making this criticism are the very same people who have previously complained that the agency isn’t moving quickly enough on mid-band spectrum.  Indeed, by now, it’s become a tired refrain:  Demand action on mid-band spectrum, but vote against putting 2.5 GHz spectrum to work for American consumers.  Demand action on mid-band spectrum, but vote against making the 3.5 GHz band a testbed for 5G.  Demand action on mid-band spectrum, but vote against letting New T-Mobile put underused spectrum to work in rural America.  Demand action on mid-band spectrum, but vote against every single one of the infrastructure reforms needed to enable that spectrum to be used for 5G..." 

So let me be clear regarding this tepid call to change course and sit still.  For those waiting with bated breath for that favorite Washington catchphrase “the U-turn,” I have only one thing to say:  You turn if you want to.  This Chairman’s not for turning.  The goal of leading the world in 5G is too urgent, the need to close the digital divide too pressing for us to put off action indefinitely.  The time to act is now.  And we are acting."


Thursday, February 6, 2020

FCC Chairman proposes accelerated timeline for opening C-band

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai circulated draft rules with his fellow Commissioners that would reform the use of the C-band and make a large amount of spectrum available for 5G.

The C-band is a 500 megahertz segment of spectrum from 3.7 to 4.2 GHz, which is now mostly used by fixed satellite companies to beam content to video and audio broadcasters, cable systems, and other content distributors.

Under the proposed rules, the lower 280 megahertz of the C-band would be available for flexible use, including 5G, through a public auction.  Existing satellite operations would be repacked into the upper 200 megahertz of the band with relocation costs covered by the winning bidders of the auctioned spectrum.

Chairman Pai argues that his proposal would quickly free up a significant amount of spectrum for next-generation wireless services, and it would generate significant revenue for the U.S. Treasury. The plans calls for an accelerated timeline, with the auction occurring in December 2020. 5G deployments could happen in the lower 100 megahertz of the C-band in 46 of the nation’s top 50 Partial Economic Areas by September 2021 and in the remaining spectrum by September 2023.

https://www.fcc.gov/document/summary-chairman-pais-c-band-proposal