The manager of the Federal government’s airwaves petitioned the organization which oversees airwaves’ commercial use, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), to reconsider its April decision to allow the Virginia-based company Ligado to operate in a spectrum band that the military and others claim could cause interference.

The petition is the latest step in the contest over the airwaves as both Federal and commercial users are looking for solutions when it comes to deploying 5G wireless networks.

“Today’s petition makes the case that the FCC gave insufficient deference to the considerations raised by the Executive Branch, especially those from the Departments of Defense and Transportation,” said the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) in a press release.

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The NTIA asked the FCC, an independent agency, to rescind the Ligado license, or reconsider the license’s conditions in a 20-plus page document, which highlights the assertions made by the military that the license would cause interference with Global Positioning System (GPS) networks. NTIA also petitioned the FCC to stay the Ligado order while the request is considered.


“NTIA has previously transmitted filings on behalf of the Executive Branch in December 2019 and April 2020 opposing the applications filed by Ligado to modify its licenses,” the NTIA press release said.

“Historically, the Commission and NTIA have worked together to prevent harmful interference between or among radiocommunication services,” said the petition, adding that the decision “will likely cause widespread harmful interference to millions of GPS receivers in the U.S.”

When asked about the NTIA petition, the FCC, which granted the Ligado license, 5-0, on a bipartisan basis, cited the support from Trump administration officials.

“We appreciate the support that our Ligado Order has received from high-ranking Executive Branch officials like Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Attorney General William Barr,” said a FCC spokesperson, in an email to MeriTalk.

“The department remains opposed to the Ligado proposal and has made no secret of its intent to see the FCC’s recent approval of it reversed,” said Department of Defense (DoD) spokesman, Lt. Col. Robert Carver, in an email to MeriTalk. “Today’s NTIA filing on behalf of the DoD and other executive branch agencies is the first step in the process of seeking that reversal.”

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Dwight Weingarten
Dwight Weingarten
Dwight Weingarten is a MeriTalk Staff Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.