Ligado Sues the US Over Spectrum Rights

Ligado Networks, a VA-based satellite business, filed a lawsuit against the US government last week, claiming the DoD violated its spectrum rights and illegally thwarted its 5G program without compensation. 

The company alleges that the DoD has been perpetrating an unwarranted “misinformation” campaign against Ligado while illegally using its assigned L-band spectrum.  Ligado is suing to recover $39B, which the lawsuit asserts is “the largest uncompensated taking of private property by our nation’s government in modern times.”

The backstory: The FCC granted Ligado L-band spectrum rights in 2020 and approved its terrestrial 5G network plans. The company said it has invested billions of dollars into the program based on the spectrum allocation. 

  • The FCC authorization sparked opposition from DoD and Congress, citing concerns that Ligado’s plans would interfere with the GPS network. The pushback eventually derailed the company’s 5G plans. 
  • Ligado claimed the Pentagon has covertly asserted ownership over the allocated L-band spectrum and is using it without compensating the company. 

“The DOD misled the FCC, Congress, and many others in its unconstitutional taking of our property and ongoing obstruction of our operations,” said Ligado chief Doug Smith. “The FCC, the federal agency with exclusive authority over the use and licensing of spectrum, made its final decision in 2020 after a thorough and exhaustive public review process. They stand by that decision today.”

Gold frequency: Spectrum rights—the exclusive use of certain radio frequencies—are the backbone of satellite connectivity. They guarantee a line of communication to and from space, free from encroachment by other providers. Since there are only a finite number of frequencies to service the exploding demand for satellite services, these spectrum bands have become extraordinarily valuable assets. 

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