The Ligado saga continues

October 13, 2022  - By
Matteo Luccio

Matteo Luccio

The LightSquared/Ligado Networks saga, now in its second decade, continues. On Sept. 9, the Committee to Review FCC Order 20-48 Authorizing Operation of a Terrestrial Radio Network Near the GPS Frequency Bands of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine (NASEM) released its consensus study. Both sides claim the report supports their position.

A summary of the report and reactions from various stakeholders can be found here.

According to Ligado, the report confirms the FCC’s finding that the company’s operations “can co-exist with GPS.” It cited the report’s conclusion that “the technology to enable compatibility has been in use for over a decade, and most consumer equipment, commercial general navigation, timing, cellular and aviation receivers will not experience harmful interference from Ligado’s operations.”

The NASEM report also confirmed, the company said, the FCC’s finding that “[a] small percentage of very old and poorly designed GPS devices may require upgrading.” Ligado reaffirmed its commitment to “upgrade or replace” federal equipment negatively impacted by its operations and expressed its hope that now the Department of Defense (DOD) and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration “will stop blocking Ligado’s license authority and focus instead on working with Ligado to resolve potential impacts relating to all DOD systems.”

By contrast, the GPS Innovation Alliance applauded the NASEM’s “reaffirmation that Ligado’s terrestrial operations would have a harmful, real-world impact on the millions of federal and commercial users that rely on GPS, satellite communications, and weather forecasting services every single day.” It further stated that the report “demonstrates that Ligado would pose an unacceptable risk to services critical to safety-of-life operations, our national security, and our economy” and urged “government action to address the imminent, but preventable, harm that would result from Ligado’s deployment.”

According to the DOD, the NASEM study “confirms that Ligado’s system will interfere with DOD GPS receivers, which include high-precision GPS receivers.” The study also concludes, DOD says, that the FCC’s proposed mitigation and replacement measures “are impractical, cost prohibitive, and possibly ineffective.”

The NASEM committee pointed out repeatedly in its report that matters are more nuanced than represented by either side and that test results and harmful interference depend on many factors — including the receiver’s signal processing architecture, the amount of SNR loss, the use case, and the relevant failure modes. “The determination of harmful interference is dependent on the particulars,” it said.

The committee also bemoaned “a lack of a quantifiable definition of harmful interference” and “the lack of common receiver assumptions” and called for “more definitive receiver standards.” It also pointed out that “many spectrum conflicts could be avoided if receivers were better designed and implemented.”

The GPS user base is in the billions. Therefore, even if “most” receivers will not be harmed by Ligado’s operations, as the committee reported, tens of millions of devices will be. I highly recommend reading the full report.

About the Author: Matteo Luccio

Matteo Luccio, GPS World’s Editor-in-Chief, possesses more than 20 years of experience as a writer and editor for GNSS and geospatial technology magazines. He began his career in the industry in 2000, serving as managing editor of GPS World and Galileo’s World, then as editor of Earth Observation Magazine and GIS Monitor. His technical articles have been published in more than 20 professional magazines, including Professional Surveyor Magazine, Apogeo Spatial and xyHt. Luccio holds a master’s degree in political science from MIT. He can be reached at or 541-543-0525.