Ligado's proposed IoT network could cause 'significant harmful interference,' Iridium claims

Iridium fired another salvo in its battle with Ligado Networks, saying the proposed plans of the would-be provider of IoT services “pose a far greater interference concern” to Iridium’s airwaves than satellite operations.

Ligado was known as LightSquared until it rebranded in February after emerging from bankruptcy and settling interference disputes with several GPS vendors. The company is moving forward with plans to build a 5G network, using its midband spectrum for use by third parties to provide connectivity to a wide range of devices as the IoT begins to get legs.

But Iridium, which operates the world’s largest commercial satellite system, has said repeatedly that Ligado’s proposed service would interfere with its business.

“Iridium’s technical concerns have been well-documented and are consistent with, and supported by, FCC precedent and other relevant federal government technical working groups,” Iridium claimed in a filing with the FCC this week. “Far from being concerned about any competitive threat as suggested by Ligado, Iridium objects to Ligado’s proposal because of the potential for significant harmful interference to Iridium’s operations in violation of the FCC’s rules if Ligado is permitted to deploy a terrestrial service in the adjacent frequency band as currently proposed.”

Ligado has access to a nationwide block of 1525-1559 MHz spectrum in the L-band; its current operations are satellite-based, and it believes that combining that with a terrestrial network would be a great asset for supporting 5G and the internet of things.

But Iridium says all those “things” are virtually guaranteed to come into contact with Iridium terminals and wreak havoc on its system. Iridium has sunk billions of dollars into its second-generation Iridium NEXT constellation and wants to protect its investment against potential interference.

Ligado disagrees, saying the evidence indicates its offering will have no impact on Iridium’s business.

“We have confidence that the commission can distinguish between fact and fiction and between the license modification and 1675-1680 MHz auction proceedings,” Ligado said in a statement emailed to FierceWireless. “We are also certain that the commission will make a decision that is based on facts, science and the public interest rather than on rhetoric.”