nbaa opposes ligado’s latest claims on safety grounds

June 10, 2020

Citing multiple ongoing and unresolved concerns about potential harm to the GPS-based National Airspace System (NAS), the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) joined with a broad coalition of aviation stakeholders to forcefully respond to Ligado Networks’ dispute of a petition from NBAA and others asking the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to pause its approval of Ligado’s latest proposed broadband cellular communications network.

Ligado, formerly known as LightSquared, filed its dispute last month after the 11 aviation groups cited numerous apparent discrepancies in a petition questioning the FCC’s decision to allow deployment of a high-speed 5G nationwide cellular service operating within bands traditionally utilized by GPS and satellite communications (Satcom) networks, including for aviation communications.

Noting Ligado’s dispute sought to downplay the expertise of industry stakeholders – blithely referencing the arguments raised by the coalition of airline and general aviation groups, along with several OEMs, avionics manufacturers and other industry stakeholders – the groups’ response asserts the breadth of opposition offers ample reason to pause the FCC’s approval of Ligado’s network, particularly when viewed against the two counterarguments raised by parties with known financial interests in the telecommunications entity.

“The Oppositions filed by Ligado and its hired allies repeatedly resort to mischaracterization of the Petition, the Order, the FAA’s own analysis that the order is fundamentally based upon, and the record,” reads the aviation group’s response. “More troubling, the Oppositions further illustrate the inadequacy of the Order’s conditions to address the harmful interference that Ligado’s planned deployments will cause GPS receivers and [satcom] terminals.”

Read the full response to Ligado’s dispute.

Ligado asserts it has limited GPS signal disruptions from its network to within a 500-foot diameter around transmission towers. The aviation groups counter those claims were not properly validated through evaluation of various operational scenarios by the FCC and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and significant safety concerns still have not been addressed.

Heidi Williams, NBAA director for air traffic services and infrastructure, stated: “We continue to emphasize that all parties in the nation’s aviation system, including general aviation, rely heavily on GPS – more than just a decade ago – and we must challenge even the slightest compromise to the safety of GPS communications. It is unfortunate that with its latest filing, Ligado has chosen to simply overlook the legitimate concerns about the company’s plans, instead of drawing from our coalition’s expertise to ensure the continued safety and integrity of operations in the nation’s airspace.”

In addition to NBAA, industry signatories to the petition include the Aerospace Industries Association (AIA); the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA); Airlines 4 America (A4A); Aviation Spectrum Resources, Inc (ASRI); the Cargo Airline Association (CAA); the General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA); Helicopter Association International (HAI); the International Air Transport Association (IATA) and the National Air Transportation Association (NATA).

Contact: Dan Hubbard, 202-783-9360, dhubbard@nbaa.org