Statement | February 10, 2017

Opening Remarks of Ligado Executive Vice President and Chief Legal Officer Valerie Green at Washington Space Business Roundtable’s Panel on Spectrum Sharing

As prepared for delivery

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Thank you, WSBR for planning and hosting this event.  And thank you to my fellow participants Caleb, Victoria, and Russ. I’m really looking forward to our conversation on this important topic.

It’s great to see so many friends and familiar faces, but I see a lot of new faces as well. Ligado is pleased to have recently re-joined WSBR, and we look forward to getting to know you better. I don’t know what took us so long!

I am excited to provide our perspective on the future of spectrum sharing and the broader opportunity in next-gen wireless networks. But since we are pretty new here, before I jump into that, I would like to provide you with a little information about Ligado.

The core of what we do is build and operate satellite communications networks for our partners in mission-critical sectors, such as public safety and transportation. Our satellite network is relied upon by first responders, as well as in infrastructure and other core industries in our country.

Our satellite network covers all of North America, providing connectivity anywhere in our coverage areas, all the time. It comprises our SkyTerra 1 Satellite, which is one of the most advanced L-band commercial satellites ever built, and uses a 22 ­meter reflector-based antenna—the largest in service on a commercial satellite—to enable pervasive communications to small fixed and mobile devices, and two older satellites, as well.

Although Ligado is technically a new company and we do have a new vision for the future, we have a long history in the satellite industry. To name just a few, our customers have included federal agencies like FEMA, the Department of Homeland Security, and the Indian Health Service. We also serve various state agencies like the California Highway Patrol and the Missouri Department of Natural Resources.

Other customers include medical air transport operators like Metro Aviation which relies on Ligado’s network to transmit critical medical information to and from helicopters operating as air ambulances, navigate more precise routes and air­to­ground logistics, and for voice, mobile data and Push-to-Talk communication.

Our network also employs state-of-the-art capabilities such as ground-based beamforming for targeted bandwidth resource allocations, which leads to stronger mobile connections and greater flexibility in managing network capacity.  It also means you can get a satellite connection in a device as small as a smartphone.

Now, I’m sure you’ve heard the term “Internet of Things,” or IoT. Maybe IoT makes you think about things like smart toasters and refrigerators and thermostats. While those devices are pretty amazing and will have an impact on our lives, the Industrial IoT or connecting mission-critical applications reliably, securely and at high speed, is what Ligado plans to focus on in the future.

Whether you are thinking about the future in terms of toasters or positive train control, or in terms of mapping RF interference like Russ here, it is this increasingly connected future that makes spectrum sharing essential.

We need far more robust wireless networks than we currently have to support all the required bandwidth to advance these systems.

You don’t need me to tell you that spectrum is critically important as it’s a requirement in all wireless communications networks. You also don’t need me to tell you that spectrum is a limited natural resource that has to be used efficiently—we can’t just make more of it. We can, however, make the most of it.

Which is why an increasingly large group of our best scientists, researchers, and policymakers have come to the conclusion that spectrum sharing is going to be a critical part of how we squeeze more out of our spectrum so that all of our needs—and our desires (is a smart toaster a need or a desire?)—can be met.

The President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) identified spectrum sharing as an important priority for building tomorrow’s wireless infrastructure and “to meet the needs of rapidly expanding and innovative sectors of the economy, while also guaranteeing that the national security and public safety sectors have the spectrum they need to maintain and advance their missions.”

Roslyn Layton, a key member of President Trump’s FCC transition team, said this past fall that “our country’s continued status as the global wireless leader rests on effective optimization of spectrum,” specifically endorsing the FCC proposal to auction and share the 1675-1680 MHz spectrum band.

And, in a statement last summer announcing its first collaborative machine-learning competition, DARPA stated that “as society enters an era in which even more products, from refrigerators to automobiles to commercial unmanned aerial vehicles, need access to the spectrum, it will take far more efficient and nimble use of finite spectrum resources to meet the demand.”

Clearly, what we see here is cross-disciplinary and cross-party support for the development and deployment of technologies that enable us to get the most out of our limited spectrum. This is something we need to do, and do the right way.

Fortunately, we already have examples of how it can be done successfully, such as the broadcast television and unlicensed devices in the TV White Space proceeding, and the proposed sharing of spectrum between licensed Citizen Broadband Radio Service and government stations at 3.5 GHz.

So we at Ligado strongly believe that spectrum sharing is central to a future of innovation, public safety, and job creation. And the data strongly supports this.

For example, an Accenture study published this month reports that “access to new spectrum bands can promote more innovation, investment and competition in the marketplace, all to the benefit of U.S. consumers and the U.S. economy.”

One way it does this is through job creation. From engineers, and wireless retailers, to tower manufacturers, and installers, more than 4.6 million Americans are directly or indirectly employed by the wireless industry.

As the Cellular Telephone Industries Association (CTIA) recently noted, investment in next-gen networks by wireless operators is projected to create 3 million new jobs – almost one new job for every 100 Americans. In fact, for every 10 MHz of spectrum made available, 100,000 new jobs are supported.

Further, the Office of Management and Budget has pegged the value to the U.S. Treasury of the 1675-1680 MHz auction alone at $300 million.

Another way that access to spectrum bands can benefit the U.S. economy is by promoting investment and competition in the global marketplace, as investing in this technology would maintain the competitive edge and global leadership of the United States. Moreover, as wireless operators invest as much as $275 billion over the next seven years, this will boost U.S. gross domestic product by $500 billion.

There are compelling reasons to open up more spectrum. In addition to these economic benefits, spectrum sharing will also promote breakthrough innovations in public safety, smart cities, transportation and logistics, healthcare, and education.

So we see sharing as inevitable and necessary, but also as a win-win.

Still, we understand that sharing isn’t easy. We all learned that the hard way in Kindergarten. It requires innovation, cooperation, a commitment to engaging in a dialogue, creative problem solving. But those are the things we are all really good at. Being a good neighbor is a fundamental American value, and something we all know how to do. So when there are concerns about how spectrum sharing will impact others, we believe you have to face those concerns head on.

For example, many of us are aware of the concerns that have been raised about how sharing in the 1675-1680 MHz band could impact NOAA and some users of some of NOAA’s weather data. These concerns persist despite the fact that by 2021, NOAA will be using just 0.3 MHz of that 5 MHz band.

Accurate, timely weather data is essential all the time – and particularly to our public safety in times of natural disaster.

Given Ligado’s interest in sharing this spectrum with NOAA, and with a firm commitment to protecting the data in mind, we’ve taken two key steps to facilitate the sharing we need, both of which are inspired by the basic principles of sharing.

The first is that we’ve studied the problem and discovered that NOAA’s operations can be protected through the creation of protection zones. To ensure this protection persists, we have recommended that a potential FCC auction of the 1675-1680 MHz band require the auction winner to create and maintain these zones.

The second is that we got innovative.  We endeavored to understand the needs of the non-NOAA users of the NOAA data and developed a solution to ensure they continue to receive the information they need.  We developed and built a brand new delivery system for the data that is proven to be at least as reliable and fast as the current satellite delivery method. And we uncovered ways that—working with NOAA—we can improve that delivery even more.

George Mason University is currently using the system and they find that it not only delivers critical NOAA weather data with high reliability and low latency, but it makes the data will be available to everyone in real time – without having to purchase and operate very expensive satellite receiver equipment.

Those who have taken the time to see how it works have been pleased. In fact, we provided several NOAA staff members with a demo at the AMS conference in Seattle late last month, and some of them even suggested it was a great system that made tremendous sense.

What we have learned is that sharing is possible. Given that it seems to also be essential, this is good news for all of us.

Thank you so much for inviting me. I look forward to your questions.