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DoD Report Claims New 5G Network Could Cause ‘Harmful Interference’ to Military Satellites

© AP Photo / Charles DharapakThis March 27, 2008, file photo, shows the Pentagon in Washington. The Pentagon said Tuesday, July 6, 2021, that it is canceling a cloud-computing contract with Microsoft that could eventually have been worth $10 billion and will instead pursue a deal with both Microsoft and Amazon. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak, File)
This March 27, 2008, file photo, shows the Pentagon in Washington. The Pentagon said Tuesday, July 6, 2021, that it is canceling a cloud-computing contract with Microsoft that could eventually have been worth $10 billion and will instead pursue a deal with both Microsoft and Amazon. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak, File) - Sputnik International, 1920, 10.09.2022
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The new report suggests the fate of satellite infrastructure crucial to the next generation of US cybersecurity is likely to be settled in the most American way possible: through a good old-fashioned business dispute.
A new 5G network set to be launched next month could interfere with existing US military satellites, the Department of Defense (DoD) warned Friday. A report issued by the National Academies of Sciences and sponsored by the Pentagon says the planned terrestrial network by Ligado Networks may cause “harmful” interference to aging satellites operated by one of its primary competitors, Iridium Communications.
Iridium trumpeted the report in comments to Defense News, claiming “the findings from the [National Academies of Sciences] are consistent with the opposition from 14 federal agencies, more than 80 stakeholders and Iridium’s concerns that Ligado’s proposed operations will cause harmful interference.”
But while the DoD determined that some pre-2012 receivers “can be vulnerable to significant harmful interference,” the report found the planned Ligado 5G network “will not cause most commercially produced general navigation, timing, cellular or certified aviation GPS receivers to experience harmful interference.”
A spokeswoman for Ligado, Ashley Durmer, reportedly framed the report as confirmation that the company’s “licensed and authorized operations can co-exist with GPS.”
Though “a small percentage of very old and poorly designed GPS devices may require upgrading,” Durmer noted that “Ligado, in tandem with the FCC [Federal Communications Commission], established a program two years ago to upgrade or replace federal equipment, and we remain ready to help any agency that comes forward with outdated devices.” But “so far, none have,” she claimed.
She reportedly claimed there’s been a push for the Pentagon to “block Ligado’s license authority,” and called on the US military to “focus instead on working with Ligado to resolve potential impacts relating to all [Defense Department] systems, including but not limited to GPS.”
In 2020, the Federal Communications Commission gave Ligado permission to establish a 5G network that would link smartphones, driverless vehicles and other devices to the next-gen network, but US senators from both parties have been urging the FCC to reconsider its approval on security grounds for several years.
Last month, the leaders of the Senate Armed Services Committee wrote a letter urging FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel to “set aside the [FCC's] Ligado Order” and insisting they “remain gravely concerned that the Ligado Order fails to adequately protect adjacent band operations – including those related to GPS and satellite communications – from harmful interference impacting countless military and commercial activities.”
Corporate media has drawn little attention to the question of whether partisan loyalties may be playing a role in the ongoing defense drama, but questions linger as to whether former President Barack Obama’s investment in a predecessor of LightSquared – the company which would go on to rebrand as Ligado Networks in 2016 – may have played a role in the decision to grant the contract in question.
In 2011, The Telegraph wrote that the Obama administration “pressured” an Air Force general to “change his testimony” regarding the Department of Defense’s concerns about LightSquared’s proposed network. After “Shelton's prepared testimony was leaked in advance to LightSquared,” they reported, “the White House then asked the general to alter it to say that he supported the White House policy.”
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