Ligado inks pact with GPS vendor Topcon in quest to build 5G network

5G (Flickr user Kārlis Dambrāns)
Image: Kārlis Dambrāns/Flickr

Ligado Networks announced an agreement with GPS manufacturer Topcon, removing another barrier as it works to bring a 5G network to market.

Ligado was known as LightSquared until the company rebranded in February after emerging from bankruptcy and settling interference disputes with GPS vendors Deere, Garmin and Trimble. It has also reached a similar agreement with NovAtel. The company hopes to build a next-generation network using its mid-band spectrum for use by third parties.

“After months of testing, analysis and discussion, we are pleased to have reached a resolution with Topcon that provides a path forward for Ligado and ensures protection of all Topcon GNSS (global navigation satellite system) devices,” said Doug Smith, Ligado Networks’ president and chief executive officer, in a press release. “This agreement underscores our ongoing commitment to working collaboratively with companies to find solutions and is further evidence that our planned satellite and ground-based network can peacefully co-exist alongside our spectrum neighbors.”

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LightSquared launched in 2010 with the goal of building a wholesale nationwide LTE network that customers could use to provide their own wireless services. It inked roughly three dozen customers before the FCC proposed to indefinitely suspend a component of its conditional license to operate in the L-band, citing unresolved concerns over interference and forcing LightSquared into bankruptcy.

RELATED: LightSquared rebrands as Ligado Networks but spectrum plans remain cloudy

Like its agreements with other GPS companies, the Topcon deal requires both companies to coordinate on operating parameters and deployment plans as Ligado deploys its terrestrial network. The move clears another hurdle for Ligado to build a 5G network aimed at providing connectivity for IoT devices.

Whether sufficient demand for another network exists is unclear, of course. Mobile network operators are hastily developing technologies specifically for IoT use cases, and vendors such as Sigfox and Ingenu are also vying for customers in that market. But Ligado’s mid-band spectrum may give it an advantage as 5G services begin to come to market over the next several years.

“We are excited about ongoing opportunities to collaborate with Topcon, including exploring opportunities to build networks that enhance accuracy and reliability of positioning services,” Smith said. “This type of advanced network, the first of its kind in North America, would further position the U.S. as a leader in wireless technology and infrastructure by delivering unprecedented performance and enabling the emerging 5G and Internet of Things markets.”

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