FCC circulates order on Globalstar's TLPS proposal

The FCC informed Globalstar that an order in its proceeding to use terrestrial low power services (TLPS) has been circulated and is now pending action by the full commission.

Such a move suggests the FCC will act sooner rather than later on Globalstar's petition, which it filed in 2012. The company wants to use spectrum originally assigned for mobile satellite services and repurpose it for use as a terrestrial service, called TLPS. An FCC representative wasn't immediately available to say how quickly the FCC could act on the petition. Some items on the circulation list have been on there since late last year.

Globalstar is optimistic about the move. "The Commission's staff has spent a tremendous amount of time and effort on this lengthy proceeding. We look forward to the Commission adopting a final order authorizing Globalstar's TLPS," said L. Barbee Ponder, Globalstar's general counsel and vice president of Regulatory Affairs, in a statement. He told FierceWirelessTech that no further comment would be made at this time.

Globalstar says allowing it to use TLPS will relieve significant wireless congestion and increase broadband capacity quickly while protecting and enhancing existing Wi-Fi services in the 2.4 GHz band. Globalstar has committed to provide up to 20,000 free TLPS access points to public and non-profit schools, libraries, community colleges and hospitals.  

In 2013, the commission launched a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) whereby modified rules were proposed that would allow Globalstar to deploy a low power broadband network using its licensed spectrum at 2483.5-2495 MHz under certain technical criteria, and with the same equipment that would be able to use spectrum in the adjacent 2473-2483.5 MHz band. At that time, the FCC said the proposal deserved further examination and opened it up to public comment.

Numerous parties weighed in, and most recently, the Hearing Industries Association (HIA) argued that Globalstar's TLPS proposal should not be granted on a conditional basis due to its impact on hearing aids that use Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE). The Bluetooth Special Interest Group and Wi-Fi Alliance also urged the commission to drop the proceeding altogether.

Others, like Google and Microsoft, expressed reservations, and commenters like Greg Gerst of Gerst Capital called for further, better and more transparent testing. And with a new application filed for Special Temporary Authority (STA), it looks as though Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) may have decided to take the testing matter into its own hands. A spokesperson at Microsoft was not immediately available to comment.

"It seems like they're willing to take on the job," said satellite and wireless industry consultant Tim Farrar of TMF Associates, who spotted the STA filing. "That's been the concern all along, that Globalstar has done a bunch of tests itself and never really given a comprehensive view of the answers. There have been a limited set of test cases," and not a lot of detail about the impact on Bluetooth or Wi-Fi. "A lot of the things that Gerst has been saying that should be tested, I think it's possible, probably likely" that Microsoft will go through with to one extent or another.

Since there is no published detail of what's in the FCC's order, "we don't know what they're going to do," Farrar said. Microsoft could have anticipated the issuance of an order that all sides acknowledged would require more testing and was simply preparing to conduct its own testing after that point, Farrar notes in his blog.

Microsoft's STA application asks permission to conduct tests that would include terrestrial use of the 2483.5-2500 MHz Mobile Satellite Service (MSS) band currently assigned for use by Globalstar.

"Microsoft will test terrestrial operations in the 2473-2483.5 MHz unlicensed band and the adjacent 2483.5-2500 MHz band, consistent with Globalstar Inc.'s proposal to operate a terrestrial low-power service on these frequencies nationwide," the application states. "Microsoft seeks to quantify the affect [sic] of such operations on the performance and reliability of unlicensed operations in the 2.4 GHz ISM band."

The tests would be conducted in Redmond, Washington, and use equipment from Ruckus and Linksys, as well as a several units each of Barnes & Noble Nook HD+ and Google Nexus 7 and 9. The requested period of operation is from May 23 to Nov. 23.

Microsoft said last year it was concerned that the use of TLPS would allow a single licensee to effectively gain exclusive access to shared unlicensed spectrum, potentially precluding existing users and degrading the services of users on adjacent spectrum bands. Microsoft also said it had hoped that Globalstar would have conducted "rigorous system-level testing of indoor and outdoor real-world TLPS use cases" at the commission's proposed operating parameters. "Such rigorous system level testing could have allayed concerns regarding the potential impacts of TLPS operations on Wi-Fi Channel 14 to licensed and unlicensed operations in adjacent spectrum, and could have demonstrated Globalstar's capacity and willingness to address any technical issue that might arise from such a service," Microsoft told the commission last year.

For more:
- see this Globalstar statement
- see this TMF Associates blog

Related articles:
Google revisits general public use of Wi-Fi Channel 14
Globalstar draws ire of Bluetooth hearing aid community
Microsoft follows Google, NCTA in dissing Globalstar plan
Globalstar investors call for swift FCC TLPS approval