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Blog | April 21, 2021

How Far We’ve Come: Marking One Year of FCC Approval

Doug Smith | Chief Executive Officer

Here at Ligado, the year 2020 will be remembered for plenty. Amid all the difficult changes the COVID-19 pandemic brought to our lives, we also achieved a critical milestone years in the making.

Tomorrow will mark one year since we received unanimous, bipartisan FCC approval of our license modification application. After years of thorough technical analysis and engagement with industry stakeholders and policymakers, the FCC determined that deploying a terrestrial wireless network in the L-band would advance our country’s economic and security interests and help the U.S. transition to next-generation networks.

Twelve months later, we’ve made a great deal of progress toward this vision – one that is not ours alone, but a shared goal with leaders in Washington to invest in our nation’s infrastructure, modernize our digital supply chain, and lead in 5G.

The investment of time and resources we’ve made in pursuit of this common goal has been significant – and it’s also been worthwhile. First, we took the same step every operator takes when new spectrum bands are approved for use: We went to 3GPP, the wireless industry standards body, to begin the process to standardize our spectrum and partner with vendors to commercialize the L-Band ecosystem.

Next, we’ve advanced our vision for a 5G solution for critical infrastructure companies. In particular, we’ve been collaborating with Rakuten Mobile, an industry leader that’s pioneering use of O-RAN technology, to build a commercial blueprint for 5G Mobile Private Networks. We look forward to commencing trials with them later this year.

And of course, we’ve continued to work hard in the lab. Earlier this month, we reached a major milestone of successfully completing a 5G over-the-air call on our test network – a validation that our spectrum and planned network architecture are well-suited for next-generation applications.

Over the last twelve months, we haven’t stopped moving forward. Because to us, the opportunity – and the need – to bring U.S. critical infrastructure into the 21st Century is so great. Critical infrastructure companies – everything from shipping outfits to agribusiness to renewable energy facilities – increasingly require dedicated private networks that boost efficiency, reduce costs and guarantee always-on operations. They need secure and reliable connections, and they need customization and control; the one-size-fits-all networks that consumers use don’t suffice for their unique footprints and technological needs.

These networks are the perfect intersection of Ligado capabilities and wireless market demand – but it’s also a vision that is aligned with Washington’s bipartisan priorities.

Case in point: In addition to focusing on critical infrastructure, we’re planning to leverage O-RAN technology – the same technology lawmakers will discuss in a House hearing later today. We agree that this cutting-edge technology will be crucial to advancing secure, next-generation networks and American leadership in 5G. We also believe it is the perfect fit for enterprise networks because its flexibility makes it easier to serve different businesses specific needs.

The enterprise-focused networks we’re pursuing have the power to truly transform U.S. businesses operations. We envision manufacturing plants properly armed with the Internet of Things and connectivity tools they need to compete globally. Utility companies able to more safely and reliably serve citizens. Health care companies with better tools to digitize and modernize how they care for patients. And transportation companies with new autonomous vehicle capabilities that help get people and things where they need to be. And importantly, I expect these new technological capabilities will help spur much-needed job creation, which will help our economy recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.

For the last 25 years, Ligado has provided critical communications services to over 20 federal agencies, including FEMA, the Coast Guard and the FBI. Throughout our work with the federal government and other stakeholders in achieving FCC approval, Ligado has been steadfast in its commitment to protect and support GPS. As part of this commitment, we launched our Government Device Program to help ensure GPS receivers used by the federal government are not impacted by Ligado operations and are equipped with 21st century technology. We’re committed to making this investment because it’s one we believe will help advance U.S. leadership over the long term.

As I look ahead to the next twelve months, I can’t help but get excited for where we could be by next April. I am confident the L-band ecosystem will bring together leading tech companies for new collaborations; our 5G Mobile Private Network solution will be in use in a real-world trial; and our work with federal partners will be well underway. We may be a small, Virginia-based company, but I firmly believe that the connectivity and services Ligado will offer will have a major impact on how the companies all of us rely on – the backbone of America – will operate in the next decade.

After so many years of planning, our commitment and mission have never been clearer, and I can’t wait to see it all come to fruition. So stay tuned – there’s much more to come.

Doug Smith is CEO of Ligado Networks. 

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