Globalstar's TLPS wireless plan to get a hearing from the FCC

Globalstar said Acting FCC Chairwoman Mignon Clyburn has circulated to other commissioners a notice of proposed rulemaking to authorize the company's planned terrestrial low-power service (TLPS) offering. The service could be used for a private, licensed Wi-Fi service operating over Globalstar's satellite spectrum and unlicensed ISM band spectrum, and reports have indicated that Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) conducted tests of a wireless network using Globalstar's spectrum.

At this point, it's far from clear when the FCC will decide on rules governing Globalstar's spectrum. The NPRM is not on the commission's agenda for its September meeting.

"We are very pleased that the FCC is moving forward with Globalstar's requested rulemaking," L. Barbee Ponder, Globalstar's general counsel and vice president of regulatory affairs, said in a statement. "With hundreds of millions of Wi-Fi devices now being sold annually, only Globalstar's proposed Terrestrial Low Power Service (TLPS) can provide an immediate solution to help alleviate existing Wi-Fi congestion. We look forward to expeditious action and new Commission rules permitting Globalstar to offer truly innovative terrestrial mobile broadband services including TLPS over its licensed spectrum."

Globalstar is licensed to provide mobile satellite service in the Big LEO band at 1610-1618.725 MHz (the Lower Big LEO band) for uplink operations and 2483.5-2500 MHz (the Upper Big LEO band) for downlink operations. The company envisions creating a TLPS network operating in the upper 2.4 GHz band and also making use of adjacent unlicensed industrial, scientific and medical (ISM) spectrum at 2473-2483.5 MHz. Globalstar claims that TLPS can deliver a superior Wi-Fi experience.

Globalstar's recent tests were first noticed in July by TMF Associates analyst Tim Farrar, who noted that, according to locations filed as part of Globalstar's experimental license with the FCC, one of the tests occurred at Amazon's Lab126 location. A July 1 FCC filing made by Globalstar investor and partner Jarvinian Wireless Application Fund noted that Globalstar was engaged in testing "to help a major technology company assess the significant performance benefits of TLPS for a transformative consumer broadband application."

Farrar told The Advocate of Baton Rouge, La., that optimistically, the FCC could issue final rules on Globalstar's TLPS service by next spring or summer. "Globalstar's hoped for NPRM is not on the tentative agenda for the FCC's September Open Meeting, presumably meaning that although the NPRM has now been placed on circulation this issue may be left for incoming Chairman [Tom] Wheeler to finalize," Farrar wrote in his blog.

It's unclear what Amazon might have been testing using Globalstar's spectrum, but Farrar has suggested it could signal Amazon's plans for an in-home media hub service. However, the entire TLPS concept has raised hackles from the likes of Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT), which has voiced alarm regarding potential interference with adjacent incumbents in the unlicensed 2.4 GHz band, and the Bluetooth Special Interest Group, which is concerned about TLPS' potential impact on existing ISM band users.

For more:
- see this release
- see this FCC page
- see this The Advocate article
- see this TMF Associates blog post

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