A GPS 3 satellite rendition. Ligado's spectrum sits near frequencies used by GPS technology. Credit: Lockheed Martin

TAMPA, Fla. — Ligado Networks is a step closer toward using its L-band satellite spectrum for terrestrial wireless services in the U.S., after getting clearance from the 3GPP consortium that sets global communications standards for 5G.

The company said June 21 that 3GPP approved technical specifications that enable vendors to build 5G-compatible products on its spectrum.

It comes after the Federal Communications Commission granted Ligado a modification to its L-band license in April 2020, despite opposition from the Pentagon and other government agencies over GPS interference concerns.

The FCC unanimously approved Ligado’s plan to use L-band for a 5G network, following a four-year proceeding, with conditions including reduced power limits and a requirement that part of it be used as a “guard band” near adjacent operations such as GPS.

In October, Ligado said it had raised nearly $4 billion in new capital to develop a private network solution for energy, manufacturing, health care, transportation and other infrastructure sectors.

“The final major step for Ligado will involve getting chipset and radio vendors to incorporate the L-Band into their designs, paving the way for a carrier to deploy the L-Band on towers and small cells and to sell devices that contain L-Band-supporting chipsets,” New Street Research analyst Jonathan Chaplin wrote in a report to investors.

“This final leg of the process is likely to take some time, but could be accelerated by the support of a large industry player (one of the carriers), who can more easily encourage their vendors to integrate the spectrum into their equipment.”

Ligado announced an agreement June 22 with Nokia to develop 5G base station radios that will be compatible with its spectrum in North America.

“Our partnership with an industry leader like Nokia is a significant milestone for our company and brings the deployment of L-Band spectrum in 5G mobile networks one step closer to reality,” Ligado chief technology officer Maqbool Aliani said in a statement.

“Nokia is a key partner in Ligado’s commercial efforts to develop the vendor ecosystem around this lower mid-band spectrum, and we look forward to advancing our collaboration activities to ready the L-Band for 5G network deployments.”

Ligado is also collaborating with Japan-based network operator Rakuten Mobile on its private network plans, aiming to deploy field trials over the next 12 months.

U.S.-based satellite operator Globalstar achieved 3GPP approval in March 2020 amid global ambitions to use some of its S-band spectrum for terrestrial wireless services.

Announcing financial results May 6, 2021, Globalstar executive chair Jay Monroe said the company was reviewing “several private networking opportunities of varying sizes” for the frequencies.

“We will soon be at the point where the only impediment to terrestrial deployments will be commercial negotiations,” Monroe said.

Jason Rainbow writes about satellite telecom, space finance and commercial markets for SpaceNews. He has spent more than a decade covering the global space industry as a business journalist. Previously, he was Group Editor-in-Chief for Finance Information...