Ligado raises $100 million for its 5G, IoT network plans


Ligado Networks has raised more than $100 million in a first wave of investment for the build-out of its planned 5G/IoT network, even as a federal agency recently asked the Federal Communications Commission to pause and reconsider Ligado’s ability to operate in its L-Band spectrum under new rules that the commission approved in April.

The new network funding will be “specifically earmarked to operationalize” Ligado’s plans, the company said, and will support chipset and device development and “spectrum standardization.” Ligado said that it is also stepping up its current and new service offerings, including “facilitating Internet of Things device operations across both satellite and terrestrial networks and providing spectrum partnerships to mobile operators.”

“With this new round of capital, we are better prepared than ever to do exactly what we’ve said: get this mid-band spectrum deployed to support the next-generation wireless networks needed to bring America’s critical infrastructure and essential services into the 21st century,” said Ligado CEO Doug Smith. “The investments will create American jobs, expand innovation and directly enhance critical industries such as first responders, health care workers and supply chain personnel that depend on ubiquitous and ultra-reliable networks to protect and secure American lives.”

In April, the FCC voted unanimously to allow Ligado Networks to use its L-Band spectrum at 1.6 GHz to provide a low-power terrestrial network aimed at supporting private 5G and industrial IoT services. The conditions of operation include a 23-megahertz guard band made up of Ligado’s own spectrum and limitations on downlink power operations and which portions of the band that Ligado actually uses. Those conditions were part of the FCC’s effort to address the concerns of GPS users, including the Department of Defense, that nearby GPS operations would be disrupted by Ligado’s new network.

While the FCC felt it had addressed those concerns sufficiently, the defense agencies disagree and have been making their case to Congress that DoD operations will be harmed if Ligado is allowed to proceed under the rules approved unanimously by the FCC. The National Telecommunications and Information Administration recently petitioned the FCC for both a reconsideration of the license changes, and a stay on Ligado’s ability to use the spectrum under the recently approved modifications, arguing that the FCC’s decision “relies upon a new and unproven ‘harmful interference’ metric and imposes unworkable conditions while still uncertain whether GPS receivers critical to national security and public safety would experience remediable harmful interference.”

“It is clear that the DoD is the driving force behind the NTIA petition,” Ligado said in a company statement in response to the NTIA petition. “This rehash of arguments put before the FCC over two years ago contains no new information or technical data to support its request that the FCC reconsider its recent unanimous, bipartisan decision. The entire petition is premised on the tired 1 dB argument, which is just another way of the DoD saying, ‘we want this spectrum for our own use.’ The FCC carefully analyzed and dismantled that argument in its 74-page Order, and we are confident that it will affirm its decision upon review. Maybe this is why Congress has raised so many concerns about what is happening at the NTIA and questioned its ability to play a positive role in critical spectrum management policy decisions.”

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