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Garmin sees GPS threat from Ligado approval voteGarmin sees GPS threat from Ligado approval vote

A GPS-industry giant wants the Federal Communications Commission to purge the record of any doubt that the company opposes the controversial Ligado Networks 5G wireless network proposal that the agency approved in April.

Critics say Ligado Networks' proposed 5G network could jam GPS reception.

Garmin International, a leading navigation technology company, wrote to the FCC on May 15 “to supplement and correct the record regarding several faulty assertions” it said the FCC included in its order in the Ligado case. Garmin reiterated its “ongoing concern” that GPS-based devices could experience interference from the proposed "internet of things" network that would operate on the L-band spectrum adjacent to GPS frequencies.

In the letter signed by three software and engineering officials, Garmin said the FCC’s order “relies heavily” on “co-existence agreements” between Ligado Networks and GPS manufacturers.

But Garmin said it never entered into such agreements, only participating in “a technical settlement agreement in 2015 to resolve ongoing litigation brought against it by Ligado. Nothing in the Settlement Agreement constitutes support for or an endorsement of Ligado or its proposed services or technologies.

“Garmin states again that it does not support or endorse Ligado’s license modification applications,” the letter said, adding that the settlement agreement “captures Garmin’s ongoing concern about its certified aviation devices” and preserves its ability to “petition the government for protection of these devices.”

Many public and private-sector critics of Ligado’s plan that was first put forth several years ago by the bankrupt venture LightSquared have been calling for the FCC to rethink its April 20 approval of the Ligado network. Some experts have compared the difficulty of receiving GPS in the presence of the louder wireless-network transmissions to trying to hear the rustling of leaves over multiple jet engines.

On the same day Garmin weighed in, 32 U.S. senators signed onto a letter urging the FCC to “immediately stay and reconsider” its approval to “more fully consider the technical concerns raised by numerous federal agencies and private sector stakeholders, and outline a path forward that adequately addresses these concerns.”

The FCC’s action “has discounted testing and assessments” by nine federal agencies—all of which noted concerns “that the Ligado plan would interfere with millions of GPS receivers and satellite services across the nation,” the senators wrote.

Dan Namowitz

Dan Namowitz

Associate Editor Web
Associate Editor Web Dan Namowitz has been writing for AOPA in a variety of capacities since 1991. He has been a flight instructor since 1990 and is a 30-year AOPA member.
Topics: Advocacy, Technology, Capitol Hill

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