Comment Sought on Letter from NTIA Regarding LightSquared Network
Federal Communications Commission
News Media Information 202 / 418-0500445 12th St., S.W.
Washington, D.C. 20554
February 15, 2012
INTERNATIONAL BUREAU INVITES COMMENT ON NTIA LETTER
REGARDING LIGHTSQUARED CONDITIONAL WAIVER
IB Docket No. 11-109
March 1, 2012This Public Notice seeks comment on a letter submitted by the National Telecommunications and
Information Administration (NTIA) on February 14, 2012, concerning the results of additional government
testing of the potential interference effects of communications equipment that LightSquared Subsidiary LLC
(LightSquared) seeks authority to operate.1 The International Bureau (Bureau) also identifies specific actions
that may be taken in light of the NTIA Letter and the full record developed to date in this proceeding.
The authorizations at issue here were granted nearly a decade ago. In 2003, the Commission
adopted rules permitting Mobile Satellite Service (MSS) licensees, after satisfying certain preconditions
known as “gating criteria,” to integrate a limited Ancillary Terrestrial Component (ATC) into their
satellite networks.2 ATC authorization enabled MSS licensees to offer ancillary ground-based mobile
services using the same spectrum resources already allocated to their MSS operations.3 In 2004, the
Bureau modified the MSS license now held by LightSquared to allow that licensee to offer MSS and an
ATC service.4 In 2005, the Commission removed a limit it had imposed in the 2003 rules on the number
of terrestrial base stations that an MSS/ATC provider may deploy.5
1 Letter from Lawrence E. Strickling, Assistant Secretary for Communications and Information, U.S. Dept. of
Commerce, to Julius Genachowski, Chairman, FCC (dated Feb. 14, 2012) (NTIA Letter), available at
2 See Flexibility for Delivery of Communications by Mobile Satellite Service Providers in the 2 GHz Band, the L-
Band, and the 1.6/2.4 GHz Bands, Report and Order and Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, IB Docket No. 01-185,
18 FCC Rcd 1962 (2003) (ATC Order).
3 ATC Order, 18 FCC Rcd 1962, as modified by Order on Reconsideration, 18 FCC Rcd 13590 (2003).
4 See Mobile Satellite Ventures Subsidiary LLC Application for Minor Modification of Space Station License for
AMSC-1, File Nos. SAT-MOD-20031118-00333, SAT-MOD-20031118-00332, SES-MOD-20031118-01879,
Order and Authorization, 19 FCC Rcd 22144 (Int’l Bur. 2004).
5 Flexibility for Delivery of Communications by Mobile Satellite Service Providers in the 2 GHz Band, the L-Band,
and the 1.6/2.4 GHz Bands, Memorandum Opinion and Order and Second Order on Reconsideration, IB Docket
No. 01-185, 20 FCC Rcd 4616, 4634 (para. 48) (2005) (ATC Second Reconsideration Order).
The Commission received and incorporated into each of those rules extensive input from the
public and federal agencies. In particular, the Commission adopted recommendations offered by the
Global Positioning System (GPS) Industry Council and NTIA to protect against harmful emissions from
MSS/ATC operations into other bands, including the GPS frequency bands. No party in those
proceedings raised any issue of possible overload interference to GPS receivers.6 Concerns were raised
about overload interference from ATC operations in the L-Band, where LightSquared is now operating, to
Inmarsat mobile satellite terminals. The Commission fully resolved that issue in its 2005 rulemaking
On July 10, 2009, in connection with the Commission’s consideration of an application to modify
an MSS/ATC license now held by LightSquared, the GPS community raised concerns about interference
to GPS.8 A month later, the U.S. GPS Industry Council and LightSquared’s predecessor licensee
submitted a joint letter to the Commission stating that those interference issues had been resolved.9
Technical modifications to the license were again coordinated with and agreed to by the Executive
Branch. No commenter raised any other concerns about GPS interference and, in March 2010, the
modification application, as well as an application to transfer control of the MSS/ATC license to the
entity now known as LightSquared, were approved.10 The Bureau conditioned its approval of the transfer
“on [LightSquared]’s actually moving forward with its plan to use [its MSS spectrum] to provide 4G
mobile wireless service, and . . . to build a terrestrial network using [its] ATC authority to facilitate
broadband service to most of the U.S. population.”11 No party sought reconsideration of that build-out
In January 2011, the Bureau granted LightSquared a limited waiver of the MSS/ATC gating criteria
that narrowly addressed LightSquared’s obligations with respect to the mobile devices (such as handsets) that
wholesale customers of LightSquared would make available to their retail customers for use on
LightSquared’s MSS/ATC network.12 The Bureau explained that it was granting LightSquared additional
flexibility with respect to mobile devices because, in addition to the company’s demonstrated commitment to
MSS satellite service, realization of the company’s MSS/ATC business plan would include rationalization of
interleaved L-Band spectrum through private arrangements into contiguous blocks that would support next-
generation broadband technologies. Further, LightSquared had made enforceable commitments that would
6 For purposes of this public notice, the term “overload interference” is defined as interference caused by signals
from a nearby transmitter into a receiver susceptible to those signals. In this case, the signals are received by GPS
receivers outside the frequency bands allocated to GPS.
7 ATC Second Reconsideration Order, 20 FCC Rcd at 4635-40 (paras. 52-67).
8 Comments of U.S. GPS Industry Council on SkyTerra Modification Application, SAT-MOD-20090429-00047
(July 10, 2009).
9 See Letter from Raul Rodriguez, Counsel for the U.S. GPS Industry Council (GPSIC) to Marlene H. Dortch,
Secretary, FCC, IBFS No. SAT-MOD-20090429-00047 (dated Aug. 17, 2009).
10 SkyTerra Subsidiary LLC Application for Modification Authority for Ancillary Terrestrial Component, Order and
Authorization, 25 FCC Rcd. 3043 (Int’l Bur. 2010) (Modification Order); SkyTerra Communications, Inc.,
Transferor, and Harbinger Capital Partners Funds, Transferee, Applications for Consent to Transfer of Control of
SkyTerra Subsidiary, LLC, IB Docket No. 08-184, Memorandum Opinion and Order and Declaratory Ruling, 25
FCC Rcd 3059, 3098-3100 (Int’l Bur., OET, and WTB, 2010) (Transfer Order).
11 Transfer Order, 26 FCC Rcd at 3088 (para. 71); see also id. at 3088-89 (para. 72).
12 LightSquared Subsidiary LLC, Request for Modification of its Authority for an Ancillary Terrestrial Component,
Order and Authorization, 26 FCC Rcd 566 (Int’l Bur., 2011) (Conditional Waiver Order).
increase the availability of terrestrial mobile wireless broadband service, including to new users in rural areas
and the public safety community.13
The Conditional Waiver Order established conditions LightSquared must meet before it may provide
commercial service under the mobile device provisions of the waiver. In particular, late in 2010, during the
waiver proceeding on requirements for mobile devices, the GPS community had raised for the first time
concerns that LightSquared’s terrestrial base stations (that is, its cell towers) would cause widespread
overload interference to GPS receivers and other GPS devices. In response to those newly expressed
concerns about base stations, the Conditional Waiver Order prohibited LightSquared from going forward and
launching its competitive 4G LTE service. The order prescribed an Interference Resolution Process by which
LightSquared would work with the GPS community to resolve the new concerns. Specifically, as a condition
of commencing commercial ATC operations under the waiver, the Conditional Waiver Order required that
LightSquared must first “complete” the Interference Resolution Process, defined as the point at which “the
Commission, after consultation with NTIA, concludes that the harmful interference concerns have been
resolved and sends a letter to LightSquared stating that the process is complete.”14
Consistent with the requirements of the Conditional Waiver Order, in December 2011 Congress
enacted Section 628 of the 2012 General Government Appropriations Act, which prohibits the Commission
from using funds made available by that Act “to remove the conditions imposed on commercial terrestrial
operations in the [Conditional Waiver Order], or otherwise permit such operations, until the Commission has
resolved concerns of potential widespread harmful interference by such commercial terrestrial operations to
commercially available Global Positioning System devices.”15
The Interference Resolution Process has not been successfully completed and harmful interference
concerns have not been resolved. On June 30, 2011, LightSquared submitted the final report of the technical
working group that it co-chaired with the U.S. GPS Industry Council (USGIC). The Bureau and the FCC’s
Office of Engineering Technology issued a Public Notice asking that interested persons comment on the
report16 and has since asked for additional technical submissions and testing. On February 14, 2012, the
Bureau received a letter from NTIA. In its letter, NTIA states that it has monitored the testing done through
the Interference Resolution Process and has coordinated additional testing of LightSquared’s equipment by
other federal agencies, to assess the interference effects of such equipment on GPS receivers and devices.17
Based on this testing, NTIA has concluded that LightSquared’s proposed mobile broadband network will
impact GPS services and there currently is no practical way to mitigate the potential harmful interference
from LightSquared’s planned terrestrial operations in the 1525-1559 MHz band.18 NTIA “conclude[s] at this
time that there are no mitigation strategies that both solve the interference issues and provide LightSquared
with an adequate commercial network deployment.”19
13 Id. at 581-83 (paras. 29-35).
14 Id. at 587 (para. 44).
15 Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2012, Pub. L. No. 112-74, at Division C – Financial Services and General
Government Appropriations Act, 2012 (“2012 General Government Appropriations Act”), § 628 (enacted Dec. 23,
16 Comment Deadlines Established Regarding the LightSquared Technical Working Group Report, Public Notice, IB
Docket No. 11-109, DA 11-1133 (Int’l Bur., rel. June 30, 2011).
17 NTIA Letter at 1-3.
18 Id. at 1, 8.
19 Id. at 8.
The NTIA Letter supplements the record established in this docket to date regarding the likelihood of
interference from LightSquared’s planned terrestrial operations to GPS receivers and devices. These
materials indicate that it is highly unlikely that LightSquared will, in any reasonable period of time, be able to
satisfy the requirements of the Conditional Waiver Order for providing commercial ATC service in the 1525-
1559 MHz band. In addition, although the GPS community raised overload interference issues in connection
with the 2011 Conditional Waiver Order, the interference addressed by the NTIA Letter is associated with
LightSquared’s planned terrestrial base stations rather than the mobile handsets at issue in the Conditional
Waiver Order. Thus, the test results stated in the NTIA Letter appear to apply to the full LightSquared ATC
service authorized in 2004 and 2010. In these circumstances, we propose the following actions:
1. Vacatur of the Conditional Waiver Order, which is currently the subject of petitions for
reconsideration, due to LightSquared’s inability to address satisfactorily the legitimate interference
concerns surrounding its planned terrestrial operations, and the appearance that the Interference
Resolution Process has no realistic prospect of being successfully completed by LightSquared in a
reasonable period of time, and
2. Modification of LightSquared’s satellite license pursuant to Section 316 of the Communications
Act20 to suspend indefinitely LightSquared’s underlying ATC authorization, first granted in 2004,
to an extent consistent with the NTIA Letter.
We invite interested parties to file comments in response to these tentative conclusions, no later than March
This proceeding is a “permit-but-disclose” proceeding in accordance with the Commission’s ex
parte rules.21 Persons making ex parte presentations must file a copy of any written presentation or a
memorandum summarizing any oral presentation within two business days after the presentation. Persons
making oral ex parte presentations are reminded that memoranda summarizing the presentation must (1)
list all persons attending or otherwise participating in the meeting at which the ex parte presentation was
made, and (2) summarize all data presented and arguments made during the presentation. If the
presentation consisted in whole or in part of the presentation of data or arguments already reflected in the
presenter’s written comments, memoranda or other filings in the proceeding, the presenter may provide
citations to such data or arguments in his or her prior comments, memoranda, or other filings (specifying
the relevant page and/or paragraph numbers where such data or arguments can be found) in lieu of
summarizing them in the memorandum. Documents shown or given to Commission staff during ex parte
meetings are deemed to be written ex parte presentations and must be filed consistent with rule 1.1206(b).
In proceedings governed by rule 1.49(f) or for which the Commission has made available a method of
electronic filing, written ex parte presentations and memoranda summarizing oral ex parte presentations,
and all attachments thereto, must be filed through the electronic comment filing system available for that
proceeding, and must be filed in their native format (e.g., .doc, .xml, .ppt, searchable .pdf). Participants in
this proceeding should familiarize themselves with the Commission’s ex parte rules.
Action by the Chief, International Bureau.
20 47 U.S.C. § 316. We note that in the event we decide – after evaluating the public comment received in response
to this Public Notice – to modify LightSquared’s license as envisioned herein, our order of modification would not
become final until after LightSquared has been given an additional period of time to protest, pursuant to the
requirements of Section 316(a).
21 47 C.F.R. §§ 1.1200 et seq.
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