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Bipartisan lawmakers call on FCC to reverse Ligado 5G decision, citing GPS interference

  • April 30, 2020

WASHINGTON — A bipartisan coalition of lawmakers is threatening to block the Federal Communications Commission’s recent decision regarding the deployment of a 5G network that may interfere with commercial and military GPS signals.

Last week, the five-member FCC voted unanimously to allow Ligado Networks to deploy a low-power nationwide 5G network despite objections from federal agencies, including the Departments of Defense, Commerce and Justice, as well as major U.S. airlines.

The 5G network will use an L-band spectrum that has the potential to disrupt commercial and military GPS signals, therefore raising concerns that the technology will impact U.S. national security.

The chairmen and ranking members of the House and Senate Armed Services committees, representing both parties, called on the Federal Communications Commission to reverse its unanimous decision in an April 22 op-ed.

“It’s clear the FCC commissioners made the wrong decision regarding Ligado’s plan, which will set a disastrous precedent while impeding ongoing work on spectrum sharing. The vulnerabilities to our national and economic security are not worth the risk, particularly for a band of spectrum that isn’t necessary to secure a robust 5G network,” wrote Sens. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla. and Jack Reed, D-R.I., and Reps. Adam Smith, D-Wash., and Mac Thornberry, R-Texas.

“Unless President Trump intervenes to stop this from moving forward, it will be up to Congress to clean up this mess.”

Ligado, the wireless satellite venture previously known as LightSquared Inc., emerged from bankruptcy in 2015 and has since been working on a proposal to develop a network reliant on the L-band spectrum that will help telecom companies deploy 5G networks.

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai hailed the April 20 vote as “another step forward for American leadership in 5G.”

And while the Trump administration is sprinting to develop 5G networks, Secretary of Defense Mark Esper expressed on Twitter similar concerns raised by the bipartisan lawmakers.

“I applaud the congressional defense leaders for their efforts to protect national security, ensure economic prosperity, promote technological leadership, preserve Americans’ way of life,” Esper wrote.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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