Senate Takes Up Legislation To Hold 5G Network Builder Accountable


Last week, three senators introduced the RETAIN GPS and Satellite Communications Act on Capitol Hill. If signed into law, the legislation would hold communications company Ligado, which won FCC approval to go ahead with its 5G cellular network, financially accountable for private and public sector costs caused by GPS interference from their surface-based telecommunications system. The senators who introduced the bipartisan legislation are Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee; Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill.; and Mike Rounds, R-S.D.

Inhofe said, “We rely on [GPS] for so much of our day to day lives, which is why we need to take steps to protect not just the federal government from the harmful decision, but all state and local governments, private entities and consumers too. When Ligado’s effort to repurpose the spectrum causes interference in the infrastructure [of GPS-based] systems, as tests have shown it will, consumers and taxpayers shouldn’t bear the burden of updating countless systems. That cost should only be borne by the responsible party: Ligado.”

Before it was approved, general aviation advocates joined with commercial airline groups in protest against Ligado’s 5G wireless plan, which they agreed would disrupt navigation within the National Airspace System. The Department of Defense also came out strongly against the proposal, saying it could cost billions of dollars to update GPS equipment in military aircraft with new systems that would not be vulnerable to interference.

Mark Phelps
Mark Phelps is a senior editor at AVweb. He is an instrument rated private pilot and former owner of a Grumman American AA1B and a V-tail Bonanza.

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  1. I still don’t understand how this ever gained FCC approval. Isn’t one of the first rules “this device shall not cause harmful interference”?

    • You’re forgetting the 2nd part as it pertains to all others:

      “ (2) this device must accept any interference received, including interference that may cause undesired operation.”

      Magnificent display of circular reasoning.

  2. They knew it would cause problems and approved it anyway. The fair solution would be to only fine those individuals that approved it.

  3. There is a simple explanation as to why this ever got approved.
    The universal response is to blame Trump for this as well as every other negative issue or problem.
    Just ask any doctor or Silicon Valley urchin.

  4. I read the April 2018 DOT Adjacent Band Compatibility Assessment report, which seems to be the last actual testing done to determine whether Ligado’s modified application will interfere with GPS. I would be embarrassed to write a report that contains such a poor “Executive Summary”. Basically, the FAA isn’t done testing and doesn’t really know if real world installations of Ligado’s base stations and antennas will cause interference with certified avionics GPS. The OST-R section of the report that focused on non-certified civilian GPS pretty much concluded that the Ligado network is likely to interfere with non-certified GPS up to 14 km from the 5G base station. Does anyone know the results of additional testing done since 2018?

  5. Politics rule 2997 subsector N: Our stated imperative “Follow the Science” applies only if the science is moving in the direction you wish to go.

      • “Follow the money” is true in just about every decision made by the government and corporate America.

        • Oops, hit “Post” too soon. The Ligado saga has a long and somewhat sordid history going back to the early 2000s when Ligado predecessor Lightsquared tried and failed to obtain FCC approval for the same system. Numerous suggestions of conflicts of interests and political infighting have surrounded the issue. Ligado maintains that their system has been thoroughly tested, but as Andrew said above, the FAA has still not conducted a comprehensive analysis of possible interference with their systems, let alone the myriad of ground-based users of GPS systems. When the US Department of Defense (along with almost 80 other organizations) objects to Ligado using this portion of the spectrum, the FCC would be wise to listen. Instead, they turned the issue into a turf war. Gotta love politics.

  6. Sounds like Senators Inhofe, et al, would be wise to add mandates in the Act to get a clear understanding of the processes that are supposed to be followed by the FCC and FAA/USAF/USSF on how to approve or disapprove this “event.” And then, sort out processes that they did or did not follow; and formulate a method to get this mess corrected immediately. I can only imagine our enemies salivating over thoughts of how to take advantage of the fools in the US as their navigation infrastructure joins the wrecking yard of its electrical networks, communication networks, and so many more soft belly assets that are unprotected. Smells like the 5G snowball was made to roll downhill uncontrolled with help of the Group Think bureaucracies coordinating the removal of life-supports of our beloved country.

  7. As I understand it, the proximity of ground based Ligado 5G base stations can overwhelm the weak GPS signal from satellites that are many times farther away from the GPS receiver. Even with a power reduction in Ligado’s revised application, there’s still a huge difference in field strength of the GPS signal from both sources. Certified avionics GPS have better, more selective receivers than do other commercial and consumer GPS so you can imagine the impact on non-certified GPS receivers. ADS-B operates on different frequencies so it isn’t as subject to interference from the 5G network. What amazes me is the lack of public data on actual testing by objective third parties. Why in the world would the FCC, a public agency, not contract with several unbiased commercial firms to do independent testing and publish the results to put to bed all of the controversy? The only reason that I can think of is that they were influenced not to do so.