|Founded||December 7, 2015|
|Headquarters||Reston, Virginia, United States|
|President and Chief Executive Officer Douglas Smith|
Ligado Networks is an American satellite communications company developing a satellite-terrestrial network to support 5G and Internet of Things applications in North America. The Reston, Virginia-based company has 40 MHz of spectrum licenses in the nationwide block of 1500 MHz to 1700 MHz spectrum in the L-Band. It operates the SkyTerra 1 satellite.
The company was formerly known as LightSquared, which sought to develop a wholesale 4G LTE wireless broadband communications network integrated with satellite coverage across the United States. Concerns over interference ultimately prevented LightSquared from deploying its planned network. After restructuring, emerging from bankruptcy and modifying its network plan, the new company, Ligado Networks, launched in 2016.
Ligado Networks is based in Reston, Virginia. The company is governed by a seven-member board of directors that includes Chairman Ivan Seidenberg, a former chairman of Verizon Communications; Timothy Donahue, former executive chairman of Sprint Nextel and former president and CEO of Nextel Communications; and former Federal Communications Commission Chairman Reed Hundt. Doug Smith is president and CEO. Fortress Investment Group, LLC, Centerbridge Partners LP and JPMorgan Chase & Co. own controlling stakes in Ligado Networks; Harbinger Capital Partners maintains a minority stake.
Ligado Networks has 40 MHz of spectrum licenses in the nationwide block of 1500 MHz to 1700 MHz spectrum in the L-Band. With it, the company is developing a satellite-terrestrial network to support the emerging 5G market and Internet of Things applications.
Network and spectrum
As of 2016, Ligado Networks seeks FCC permission for terrestrial deployment of its mid-band spectrum in the 1500 MHz to 1700 MHz range. The company plans to make its spectrum available to industry and government to serve emerging Internet of Things and 5G technologies. The plans have received favorable reviews from organizations including the Competitive Carriers Association, CTIA — The Wireless Association, Public Knowledge and Open Technology Institute at New America, among others.
In 2010, the company (as LightSquared) acquired licenses to mid-band spectrum when it bought SkyTerra Communications. LightSquared's plans, which did not come to fruition, were to use the spectrum to create a 4G wireless mobile network covering North America.
The spectrum was originally intended for satellite use only but in 2004 the FCC allowed the spectrum to be augmented with cell towers. This opened the door for potential use on mobile devices. As LightSquared, the company reached a cooperation agreement in 2007 with Inmarsat, a British satellite telecommunications company, that rearranged the L-Band spectrum so the company could use a larger, contiguous stretch of spectrum. Potential interference issues at the time prevented LightSquared from deploying the network.
Ligado Networks traces its roots back to 1988 with the company American Mobile Satellite Corporation (which became Motient Corporation), and later as Mobile Satellite Ventures after a merger between Motient Corporation and TMI Communications. The company originally operated two geostationary satellites covering the North American market: MSAT-2, licensed in the United States, launched in 1995; the next year, the company launched MSAT-1, which is licensed in Canada.
Mobile Satellite Ventures changed its name to SkyTerra Communications in 2008. LightSquared emerged from SkyTerra after Philip Falcone's Harbinger Capital Partners acquired SkyTerra in March 2010. The company received about $2.9 billion in assets from Harbinger and affiliates, as well as more than $2.3 billion in debt and equity financing. LightSquared sought to develop a 4G LTE wireless broadband network using spectrum in the L-Band. The company's proposed nationwide network would then sell its services wholesale to other service providers, not to retail customers.
The company launched its SkyTerra 1 satellite from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on November 14, 2010. At its launch, the satellite contained the largest commercial reflector antenna put into service. SkyTerra 1 replaced MSAT-1 and MSAT-2 as most of the data from the company's MSAT satellites relocated to SkyTerra 1.
The spectrum the company controls was originally set aside for satellite communications only. That changed in 2004 when the FCC granted approval for the company to augment its satellite network with cellphone towers on land. In January 2011, the FCC approved a conditional waiver to allow the company, then called LightSquared, to use its spectrum for land-based-only LTE communications if the company resolved GPS interference. The GPS industry, aviators and military claimed the company's use of its spectrum would interfere with their communications. In February 2012, the FCC proposed to suspend indefinitely the ATC authorization due to the interference issues with satellite services. Three months later, LightSquared filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy.
On December 7, 2015, the company emerged from bankruptcy as a new company under the control of Centerbridge Partners, Fortress Investment Group and JPMorgan Chase & Co.; Harbinger retained minority ownership. Also in December 2015, the company reached settlements with GPS companies Garmin Ltd., Deere & Co. and Trimble Navigation Ltd. to establish how the company and GPS companies can coexist.
The company announced its new name, Ligado Networks, on February 10, 2016, derived from the Spanish and Portuguese words for "connected". Ligado Networks focuses on using its spectrum to serve the Internet of Things and emerging 5G technologies.
On January 26, 2011, The Federal Communications Commission granted a conditional waiver that allowed LightSquared and its wholesale customers to offer terrestrial-only devices rather than having to incorporate both satellite and terrestrial services. The waiver was conditioned on resolving concerns about interference to GPS.
Companies that provide global positioning systems, in addition to the United States Air Force, the operator of the GPS system, opposed the FCC waiver, saying that more time was needed to resolve concerns that LightSquared's service might interfere with their satellite-based offerings. LightSquared promised to work with GPS providers and give the FCC monthly updates on a resolution to interference concerns.
In October 2011, LightSquared threatened to sue the FCC if its network is not approved.
On February 14, 2012, the FCC initiated proceedings to vacate LightSquared's Conditional Waiver Order based on the NTIA's conclusion that there was currently no practical way to mitigate potential GPS interference.
LightSquared's plan for standalone-terrestrial broadband services met resistance over potential interference issues with GPS systems. In a January 12, 2011, letter to the FCC, National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) chief Lawrence Strickling said that LightSquared's hybrid mobile broadband services raise "significant interference concerns" and that several federal agencies wanted the FCC to defer action on LightSquared until the concerns were addressed.
On January 20, 2011, GPS industry representatives sent a letter to the FCC, sharing a study by Garmin International that said "widespread, severe GPS jamming will occur" if LightSquared's plans were approved. The study used two GPS models and simulated LightSquared transmitters.
Testing showed that LightSquared's proposed ground-based transmissions could "overpower" the fainter GPS signals from space-based satellites. With the band close to those GPS signals, "GPS devices could pick up the stronger LightSquared signals and become overloaded or saturated".
On February 17, 2011, former Deputy Secretary of Defense Bill Lynn, along with the head of the USAF Space Command, Gen. William L. Shelton, expressed concerns about potential GPS interference from the LightSquared network.
On April 5, 2011, with respect to concerns raised by the U.S. GPS Industry Council and NTIA about LightSquared’s proposed operations, the FCC stated that LightSquared could not commence offering a commercial terrestrial service until the agency concluded that the harmful interference concerns had been resolved.
Challenges in Congress
On September 15, 2011, Representative Michael Turner (R-Ohio) called for the United States House Oversight and Government Committee to investigate LightSquared under the premise that the Federal Communications Commission waived a rule for LightSquared because of campaign contributions to Democrats. LightSquared officials, who had contributed to both Republicans and Democrats, denied the allegations.
Among the issues raised was whether political contributors and investors received favorable treatment by President Barack Obama's administration. Before he became president, Senator Obama had invested between $50,000 and $90,000 in SkyTerra, which later became LightSquared. An Air Force General claimed in a closed congressional hearing that he had received political pressure to soften his testimony regarding the negative effects of LightSquared technology. However, the General's spokesperson denied there was any improper influence and said that the general's testimony was reviewed appropriately by the Office of the Secretary of Defense and other executive agencies via the established Office of Management and Budget process.
Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), a ranking minority member on the United States Senate Committee on the Judiciary, had also asked Falcone and LightSquared's CEO to disclose their contacts with the FCC, the White House and other government agencies.
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The MSAT-1 was launched Saturday in the South American country French Guiana. … until now, a U.S. satellite was carrying the companies' signals.
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