Ligado gets 3GPP nod for 5G deployment in the L-band

Ligado Networks said that it has received approvals from the Third Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) on specifications that will allow the deployment of 5G in its L-band spectrum.

Specifically, Ligado said that 3GP approved a new 5G New Radio band n24 and some updates to its LTE Band 24, as well as a new 5G NR Supplemental Uplink (SUL) Band called n99; and NR carrier aggregation (CA) and SUL band combinations for n24 and n99 with CBRS, C-Band and Education Broadband Service/Broadband Radio Service (EBS/BRS) spectrum. “The approvals of SUL band n99 and band combinations will help facilitate the deployments of L-Band spectrum with other mid-band airwaves like the C-Band, CBRS, and EBS spectrum bands,” according to a Ligado statement.

The company said that the approval is a “crucial step in Ligado’s expansion of the L-Band vendor ecosystem and its efforts to deploy new mid-band spectrum in 5G networks in the U.S.” Ligado plans to use its L-band spectrum to support 5G mobile private networks for a variety of verticals. Ligado, which has raised nearly $4 billion to support its plans, says it has already lined up “multiple 5G base station and chipset vendors” and that it is also working with Rakuten Mobile as it moves forward; the two companies plan to deploy lab and field trials over the next 12 months.

“This is a major milestone for us – in an already momentous year – and advances our vision to deploy this spectrum for a range of next-generation services,” said Ligado CEO Doug Smith. “The 3GPP green light gives us what we need to accelerate our commercial ecosystem activities and expand Ligado’s roster of partners to deploy this much-needed spectrum for U.S. businesses and consumers.”

“Receiving these 3GPP approvals is a huge springboard to deploy the L-Band in U.S. 5G networks, and we’re excited to have continued support from several industry-leading vendors,” said Ligado CTO Maqbool Aliani. “Bringing this additional mid-band spectrum to the 5G market will help the U.S. roll out next-generation deployments more quickly, at lower costs, and with superior network performance.”

In April of last year, the FCC voted unanimously to allow Ligado Networks to use L-Band spectrum at 1.6 GHz to provide a low-power terrestrial network aimed at supporting private 5G and industrial internet of things services. Ligado, formerly known as Lightsquared, had been pressing the FCC to allow it to operate a terrestrial network since 2015.

In order to operate a terrestrial network, Ligado was granted a modification to its existing licenses, which cover 40 megahertz in the 1.6 GHz band, adjacent to some high-precision GPS providers and users; a group of nearly 100 users, such as Iridium Networks, have continued to protest that the changes to Ligado’s operations will harm their operations. The FCC decision was opposed by the Department of Defense and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration due to concerns about those neighboring GPS operations. Shortly after the FCC’s decision, NTIA asked the Commission to reconsider its action; one of the last actions of the FCC under former President Trump was to reject NTIA’s request for reconsideration and a stay. The possibility of the FCC reopening the subject came up in the thwarted renomination process of former commissioner Michael O’Rielly; he was ultimately replaced by Commissioner Nathan Simington.

Meanwhile, the National Academies of Science has been tasked by Congress to do a review of the FCC’s order in regards to Ligado Networks’ operations and potential impacts to GPS. This was included in the FY2021 National Defense Authorization Act and the project was expected to take 15 months.

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