Image: Department of Defense

Blog Editor’s Note:  We have posted on this before and, while it is not in the center of our normal lane, it is worth raising the issue again. And, with the Ligado decision, the PNT community has certainly had to contend with the challenge of contested (and lost) FCC actions.

We admit to not being seasoned FCC observers, nor having any expertise in spectrum management.  That said, on the face of them recent FCC actions (Ligado, Safety Band, Radar Altimeters) should give all citizens and policy makers cause for concern and raise some serious questions that must have answers:

  • Does the FCC really have the impartial technical and engineering expertise in all the various disciplines needed to decide issues in such widely varying uses of spectrum?
  • Why doesn’t the FCC always make their engineering analysis public and accept comment before they decide such cases?
  • Why isn’t an economic impact analysis done for each decision, or at least the most controversial, and made public for comment before they decide such cases?
  • Why does the FCC not use independent boards of experts when deciding complex technical issues as the CDC and other agencies do?
  • How many times has the FCC decided against an application that used the magic term “5G”?


The military is scrambling to understand the aviation crash risk from a new 5G sale

WASHINGTON — As part of a broader move to boost the 5G industry in the United States, the Federal Communications Commission on Dec. 8 began auctioning a portion of C-band electromagnetic spectrum, a move the committee’s chairman, Ajit Pai, celebrated as “a big day for American consumers and U.S. leadership in 5G.”

But, in the weeks leading up to the auction, more than a dozen commercial aviation groups warned the sale could, as one study put it, lead to “catastrophic failures” with the potential for “multiple fatalities.”

At the core of the concerns are radar altimeters, a critical piece of aviation technology used by military, commercial and civil aircraft of all types — including helicopters and unmanned aerial systems — to measure the distance between an aircraft and the ground.

The aviation groups worry that 5G operations on the spectrum sold by the FCC could cause interference that would provide inaccurate readings on altimeters or cause their failure outright, in essence leaving pilots unaware of how far they are from the ground and potentially leading to crashes over the United States.