Ligado Networks, which is as soon as once more within the highlight following the FCC’s blowout C-band public sale, is working this yr to get its L-band spectrum able to deploy regardless of continued backlash from the Division of Protection (DoD).
Not like the C-band, Ligado’s spectrum is free and clear, with none incumbents to maneuver. The C-band is at the moment utilized by satellite tv for pc operators that want to maneuver to the higher portion of the band to make method for the 5G companies that public sale winners will deploy. The primary batch of C-band spectrum can be accessible later this yr, however a lot of it’s in limbo till 2023.
Ligado President and CEO Doug Smith instructed Fierce that he and his colleagues weren’t stunned to see the excessive demand within the $81 billion C-band public sale given the necessity for mid-band spectrum. The C-band’s A-block licenses, which can be accessible on the finish of this yr, went for a premium, or at costs about 20% increased than different blocks.
But when the C-band spectrum matches into the “Goldilocks” spectrum candy spot that’s typically used to explain it, the L-band is in an excellent sweeter spot, given it’s decrease on the spectrum vary and nearer to the PCS and AWS bands that wi-fi operators already use.
With holdings within the 1.6 GHz band, Ligado’s spectrum gives nice capability and protection. It’s greenfield, which gives loads of flexibility when it comes to how one can deploy it. “It’s only a nice alternative for us and our spectrum to play a essential function in accelerating the deployment of 5G networks throughout the nation,” Smith mentioned.
Hypothesis has run rampant for years that Ligado would promote its spectrum to the very best bidder, which can or could not grow to be Verizon. However because the DoD continues to voice considerations concerning the impression Ligado’s community may have on federal GPS customers, it’s more and more unclear how a lot a wi-fi provider desires to enter that fray.
Nonetheless, some analysts see vivid indicators for Ligado. New Road Analysis analysts, for instance, have argued that the L-band is a useful complement to a provider’s C-band holdings as a result of it improves the attain of C-band, accelerates the timing of deployment, lowers the price of deployment and will increase the capability a provider can extract from their costly C-band licenses.
“We argued additional that increased costs for C-band meant a better worth for the L-Band. The C-Band winners could not have a lot stability sheet capability to purchase the L-Band now; nevertheless, Ligado may simply enter right into a lease for the L-Band that might have minimal impression on near-term money flows and no impression on leverage,” wrote New Road analyst Jonathan Chaplin in a Wednesday report for buyers.
Analysts at LightShed Companions additionally consider Ligado’s spectrum can notably enhance the efficiency of upper spectrum bands like C-band.
“We proceed to obtain constant and new incremental suggestions from engineers about how supplemental uplink would velocity the buildout of C-Band spectrum and cut back the general community density required to allow these increased C-Band frequencies,” wrote LightShed’s Walter Piecyk in a blog on Wednesday. “Traders ought to press Verizon on this very actual concern at their upcoming investor day, given the $50 billion that it simply spent within the C-Band public sale and its prior questionable investments in mmWave spectrum and community tools.”
Smith didn’t get into specifics about what Ligado may be discussing with operators. The corporate is concentrated on seeing the L-band by way of the 3GPP requirements course of and creating an ecosystem for L-band services. It lately reached a pact with Rakuten Cell to deploy the Rakuten Communications Platform (RCP) in a trial 5G non-public community.
Like loads of people in wi-fi lately, Ligado sees nice alternative in offering non-public networks to enterprises. Lots of enterprises are searching for a extremely safe, low latency, personalized community, in keeping with Smith.
Ligado is engaged on these kinds of 5G options now. “We’re placing the constructing blocks collectively in order that we will get to deployment of the networks,” which suggests working with chipset producers and tools suppliers, he mentioned. “All that’s nicely underway.”
Individually, Ligado operates a satellite-based community that serves some 22 totally different federal companies and the commercial sector that want the ever present kind of protection that satellites supply. Satellites are usually not topic to the identical parts that the terrestrial networks are uncovered to, reminiscent of excessive climate occasions, Smith famous.
As for the L-band, the corporate expects to obtain 3GPP approvals someday later this yr; the siting and allowing of apparatus will come later.
‘Free to go’
The FCC voted 5-0 last April to approve a modification for Ligado to maneuver ahead with its terrestrial plans within the L-band after it made a variety of concessions. The FCC mentioned its order included situations to make sure that incumbents wouldn’t expertise dangerous interference.
Simply earlier than leaving his publish in January, former FCC Chairman Ajit Pai additional endorsed Ligado’s plan by announcing the FCC would deny a request by the Nationwide Telecommunications and Data Administration (NTIA) to delay the order.
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Smith mentioned the FCC has spoken on the problem twice within the final yr, and it’s been clear. That’s why Ligado is concentrated on shifting forward to get its spectrum prepared for deployment. “The order absolutely protects GPS and permits us to maneuver ahead,” he mentioned. “We’re free to go. In order that’s what we’re doing. We’re shifting forward to deploy this now.”
Requested about what a cope with carriers may appear like, whether or not a lease or in any other case, Smith mentioned he’s open to concepts. “We’re completely open to partnerships with the established wi-fi carriers,” he mentioned. “I don’t know what kind which may take. I believe there’s been expressed curiosity publicly from these corporations to do non-public networks. We may work with them” and pursue that or different areas. “If there are alternatives to work with the wi-fi carriers, then completely, we’re open to do this.”
For years, Ligado fought loads of opposition to get its FCC approval. A kind of opponents is satellite tv for pc firm Iridium, which makes use of a small sliver of spectrum that’s separated from Ligado’s by a “paper skinny” guard band, in keeping with Robert McDowell, a lawyer who works for Iridium and a former FCC commissioner.
Final fall, Ligado introduced that it had raised about $4 billion in new capital to help the corporate’s know-how plan and increase the roster of distributors supporting the L-band ecosystem. However McDowell mentioned that and the excessive rate of interest related to it point out Ligado doesn’t manage to pay for to construct out a nationwide 5G community and appears to be biding its time, paying for its Reston, Virginia, headquarters, in addition to attorneys and lobbyists.
That was earlier than the Nationwide Protection Authorization Act (NDAA), which grew to become legislation on January 1, requires a research to have a look at the impression of Ligado underneath the FCC’s order, he famous. The NDAA calls on the Secretary of Protection to work with the Nationwide Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Drugs to undertake an impartial technical evaluation of the FCC’s order, which is due in October.