Globalstar back in play as FCC considers revised proposal

Globalstar satellite (Globalstar)
Globalstar's latest proposal calls for only using its own licensed mobile satellite spectrum at 2483.5-2495 MHz. (Image: Globalstar)

Things are looking up for Globalstar these days, with several former critics now supporting its revised proposal for providing Terrestrial Low Power Service (TLPS) and the FCC circulating a new proposed order among commissioners.

After years in the making, Globalstar reversed course and on Nov. 9 submitted a revised plan, asking for permission to use its 11.5 megahertz of satellite spectrum at 2483.5-2495 MHz to offer low-power terrestrial broadband services, dropping plans for a 22 MHz Wi-Fi Channel 14. Nearby 2.5 GHz spectrum holder Sprint was among those who expressed support for the revisions.

Since then, the Wi-Fi Alliance, NCTA, CableLabs and Entertainment Software Association (ESA) have said Globalstar’s latest revisions appear to satisfy their objections. The ESA, Microsoft and Nintendo earlier were concerned it would interfere with millions of gaming devices in the 2.4 GHz band.

“Assuming that the value of P in the alternative OOBE emissions limit set forth above represents Equivalent Isotropically Radiated Power (EIRP), ESA believes that adopting the Revised Proposal using the alternative OOBE emissions limit set forth above, as well as Globalstar’s proposed amendment to the section on ‘special provisions,’ would likely address the technical concerns ESA raised in this proceeding regarding the impact of Globalstar’s proposed terrestrial operations on communications between game consoles and their peripherals,” ESA said in its Dec. 12 filing (PDF) to the commission.

Globalstar issued a statement last week saying it appreciates the recent favorable filings by interested parties and believes its revised proposal addresses “all reasonable interference and policy-based concerns expressed in this lengthy proceeding.” The proceeding formally kicked off in 2012 when Globalstar filed a petition for rulemaking.

Negotiations apparently continued since Globalstar submitted its initial revised proposal in November, with the Wireless Communications Association (WCA) telling the commission this week that it continued to have concerns due to language proposed by Globalstar that included references to spectrum above 2495 MHz, which is used terrestrially by BRS Channel 1 and is not available for TLPS. Those concerns have since been addressed by Globalstar, and now the WCA has no objection to the adoption of the rules for TLPS as proposed by Globalstar.

The changes in attitude certainly caught the eye of the investment community. Cowen credit analyst Lance Vitanza said news of a proposal being circulated at the commission suggests FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler may have reached a deal with Republican commissioners, according to Commissioner Ajit Pai in June came out against Globalstar’s earlier proposal, saying it would give the company special rights to unlicensed spectrum in the 2.4 GHz band, and Commissioner Michael O’Reilly at last check was still undecided. But with a modified proposal, Globalstar’s chances of getting TLPS approved have risen, as reflected in its stock price.

“Gone from the revised proposal was a provision (over-reaching, in our opinion) that would have allowed Globalstar to get paid on adjacent spectrum that it doesn’t own but wanted to manage - we think this provision had been a key source of resistance among at least some of the commissioners,” Vitanza wrote, according to StreetInsider.

It’s not clear if Globalstar has satisfied everyone who filed comments against its plans. The Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG) last month said that it absolutely disagreed with Globalstar’s assertion that its new proposal would raise no interference risks for unlicensed operations in the ISM band; a Bluetooth SIG spokesperson was not immediately available for comment this week. The Hearing Industries Association (HIA) said the revised proposal didn’t make it clear what specific technology Globalstar intended to use, which would make a difference in terms of how it affects wirelessly-enabled hearing aids, and Globalstar subsequently responded to the HIA’s comments, saying once again there’s no indication that TLPS will interfere with hearing aids that use Bluetooth.

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While Globalstar’s interaction with the commission has been long and complicated at times, it's also been the target of short-sellers who stood to gain if it went away. Back in 2014, Kerrisdale Capital, a short-seller that would benefit from a drop in the company's stock price, called Globalstar's TLPS concept “laughable” and one that would never be commercially viable.