Globalstar shelves controversial proposal for unlicensed spectrum, asks FCC to OK revised plan

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After years of being in limbo, Globalstar says it’s backing off a proposal to launch a wireless network that critics said would have interfered with Bluetooth and Wi-Fi devices. Instead, the company told the FCC that it wants to “narrow the relief” it originally sought and urged the commission to adopt rules that will expedite the outcome of a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM).

The move, reported by Network World last week, represents a big change in Globalstar’s plans. The company said in a filing with the FCC last week that while it still strongly believes in the NPRM’s proposal for more intensive use of Globalstar’s 11.5 megahertz of licensed mobile satellite service (MSS) spectrum in the 2.4 gigahertz band and 10.5 MHz of unlicensed spectrum in the adjacent band, the proposed use of the unlicensed ISM band raised “a number of technical and policy objections” that delayed the proceeding as well as the investment that, it contends, would have led to improved broadband at 2.4 GHz.

Globalstar is now asking the commission to adopt a subset of the rules proposed in the NPRM and permit Globalstar to use its 11.5 MHz of licensed MSS spectrum at 2483.5-2495 MHz for low-power terrestrial broadband services.

“Globalstar’s revised proposal should resolve all remaining interference-related concerns in this proceeding as well as policy issues related to use of the 10.5 megahertz of unlicensed ISM spectrum,” Globalstar said in the filing. “This revised approach should allow the Commission to move forward with confidence that this spectrum will be rapidly utilized for the benefit of consumers. In particular, this revised proposal should eliminate objections relating to Globalstar’s proposed operations below 2483.5 MHz and alleged detrimental interference to Wi-Fi systems and Bluetooth operations in the unlicensed ISM band."

In addition, "although the record demonstrates that such interference allegations are without merit, in the interest of moving forward, Globalstar asks the Commission to adopt rules expeditiously for low-power terrestrial operations at 2483.5-2495 MHz,” the company said in the 7-page filing.

A company spokeswoman told FierceWirelessTech that the company had no further comment. The company said in the filing that it plans to use its 11.5 MHz of  licensed spectrum at 2483.5-2495 MHz for low-power operations that support traditional mobile broadband services, including a variety of voice, data and text applications.

“We are still evaluating whether Globalstar’s new proposal resolves our interference concerns or raises new ones,” said Mark Powell, executive director, Bluetooth SIG, in a statement to FierceWirelessTech today. “The new Globalstar proposal also appears to not require any special rules just for Globalstar regarding their use of the ISM spectrum, in which case our fairness concerns will be addressed.”

The NPRM was created in 2013 and Globalstar spent considerable time since then trying to prove that its proposal would not interfere with Bluetooth or Wi-Fi but would benefit schools and libraries by relieving Wi-Fi congestion. Just last month, Globalstar submitted a lengthy response to Microsoft’s claims that Globalstar’s proposed use of the Terrestrial Low Power Service (TLPS) at 2473-2495 MHz would have a detrimental impact on Xbox 360S game systems.

RELATED: FCC circulates order on Globalstar's TLPS proposal

In May, the FCC informed Globalstar that an order on its proposal had been circulated and was pending action by the full commission. The company had the support of FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, but as recently as last month, Republican Commissioner Michael O’Rielly said he was still undecided.

RELATED: Globalstar TLPS proposal still in limbo at FCC

Globalstar now believes its plan should go ahead without opposition. “Nearly every opponent of the Commission’s NPRM focused on Globalstar’s low power terrestrial operations in the unlicensed 10.5 megahertz of Channel 14 (2473-2483.5 MHz),” the company said in its Nov. 9 filing. “Globalstar’s revised proposal addresses those objections by narrowing the relief it seeks to its own licensed spectrum … with Globalstar’s low-power terrestrial operations entirely in its licensed MSS spectrum at 2483.5-2495 MHz, opponents clearly cannot assert that Globalstar would have ‘preferential’ access to unlicensed ISM spectrum.”