Statement | June 15, 2017

Remarks of Ligado Networks CEO Doug Smith at Politico Live “Spectrum, Innovation and Infrastructure in the Trump Era”

We, too, see spectrum as a vital resource critical to supporting our national infrastructure. Yet it sometimes sits idle when it could be fueling the high-tech economy in a competitive, open environment to keep America’s global leadership in wireless innovation. As a nation, we should not let the next wave of infrastructure improvements become a missed opportunity.

As prepared for delivery

WASHINGTON – Good morning, and thank you all for joining us today.

I’m Doug Smith, and I am the President and CEO of Ligado Networks.

It’s great to be here with this incredible group of panelists and all of you. I think it’s safe to assume that we are here today because we share a desire to build a 21st century digital infrastructure that allows America to remain the world’s innovation leader.

Chairman Pai made the point that the three key pieces of the 5G framework are: “freeing up more spectrum, removing barriers to infrastructure deployment, and encouraging innovation and investment in the network and mobile technologies.”

He’s so right!

That’s what this event is all about.

And I’m excited to be here today as this is the first time I will meet many of you and have the opportunity to talk with you about Ligado.

Our company is all about making stronger connections – particularly for the core industries that are the foundation of the U.S. economy.

Our name, “Ligado,” literally means connected, and as some of you may know, we are preparing to build a new kind of wireless network that doesn’t currently exist. This network will serve critical infrastructure and the Industrial Internet of Things (IIOT). Our unique plan would combine satellite and terrestrial capabilities into one network for ultra-reliable and secure connectivity anytime, anywhere.

There’s often a tendency to think about different technologies in silos. Traditionally what we’ve seen is that companies are either a terrestrial-based company or a satellite-based company. And in fact, over the last several decades they’ve competed for the same market share. But today’s reality says that these technologies and these networks are not competitive to each other — they are very complementary. And that really is the foundation of what we are doing at Ligado.

To meet the growing demand for data, and just as important the complex use cases that are emerging with the Internet of Things, you really need to combine both into a seamless, integrated network that takes the best of both worlds. The best that satellite has to offer and you combine that with all of the broad capabilities of a terrestrial network – you can really achieve powerful things.

Here’s how we plan to do it.

Our satellite is the largest commercial satellite ever launched and has tremendous capabilities that allow us to provide our customers with reliable, powerful mission-critical connectivity. We help our customers serve their customers – those in the rail, aviation, energy and public safety sectors as well as those in federal and state agencies – have a real impact on people’s lives.

One of our key customers is Metro Aviation – a company that operates an emergency air ambulance fleet across the country. Its pilots use our satellite network to transmit data back to its operations center.

The ability to send crucial patient information in real time to medical teams waiting to receive patients would be a huge leap forward in care – one that is potentially life-saving.

The network we are planning to build – what we call the Advanced Satellite-Terrestrial Network, or ASTN – would combine our powerful satellite with a new state-of-the-art terrestrial network to enable Metro Aviation to do just that.

A satellite or a terrestrial network alone could not accomplish this. With our new model, the satellite will provide the coverage, while the terrestrial component will enable higher-bandwidth demands – like real-time video feeds. For Metro, that means constant connectivity between helicopters and hospitals. And for patients, better care.

Such a customized network would be able to provide seamless connectivity that is pervasive, highly secure and ultra-reliable. Both components make the ASTN uniquely suited to serving 5G and the Industrial Internet of Things safely, effectively and reliably.

The combined satellite and terrestrial network I’ve just described has never been deployed. This is critical – because it would help ensure American leadership in the digital future.

The ASTN would also help a broad range of other core infrastructure sectors, including transportation and energy. Those industries increasingly rely on technology to perform critical functions benefiting our country. As examples:

  • Rail operators are looking for better ways to remotely monitor and inspect tracks.
  • Driverless cars require accurate high-precision location services.
  • Commercial drones need to be able to operate safely beyond the line of sight and transmit data in real-time.
  • And the energy sector is increasingly relying on more forward-looking approaches to extract, manage and transport the natural resources powering our world.

As policymakers here in Washington discuss ways to improve our nation’s infrastructure, these types of advancements are exactly what we need to modernize our systems and support breakthrough technologies.

Issues involving spectrum use and infrastructure are complex and of great interest to lawmakers, regulators and the general public. Congress has held nearly 20 hearings on these issues in the past several months.

An ever-increasing proportion of our economy is dependent on high-speed connectivity. And the Internet of Things guarantees billions more connected devices will come online in the coming years. In fact, according to a new forecast from Cisco, there will be about 13 networked devices per person in the U.S. by 2021.

All of these things underscore that we cannot build our economy on outdated networks any more than we can on crumbling roads.

And the key component is access to spectrum.

The President’s nominee to lead NTIA, David Redl, emphasized this point in his confirmation hearing.

We, too, see spectrum as a vital resource critical to supporting our national infrastructure. Yet it sometimes sits idle when it could be fueling the high-tech economy in a competitive, open environment to keep America’s global leadership in wireless innovation. As a nation, we should not let the next wave of infrastructure improvements become a missed opportunity.

This panel is evidence that industry is ready to put underused spectrum to work for new technologies that will add billions of dollars to the U.S. economy and create hundreds of thousands of jobs. Ligado alone is ready to invest almost a billion dollars and create 8,000 jobs. As we recently told the FCC, we are ready to invest in America’s digital infrastructure in ways that will benefit our communities, make our economy more competitive, create new opportunities for American workers, and allow the U.S. to maintain its leadership position.

And we know that if industry is given the opportunity to develop and put to use 40 megahertz of greenfield spectrum, there is no limit to what we can invent, innovate, design, and build.

It’s why I am thrilled that we are part of an important conversation today on how the FCC can help drive next-generation connectivity – the steps that can put underused spectrum to use.

With that, I’m excited to hear from our distinguished panelists and look forward to connecting with you all at some point soon.

Thank you.

And now I’d like to welcome Margaret McGill to the stage for the panel discussion on the intersection of spectrum-sharing, 5G and the Internet of Things. Margaret is POLITICO’s chief FCC reporter, and we’re really looking forward to hearing from her, and the panelists about how the agency can help usher in this new wave of wireless technology.