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u-blox responds to the US FCC approval of the use of a previously protected wireless band for terrestrial cellular communications

By Eric Van Rees - 30th August 2021 - 06:16

u-blox, a global provider of positioning and wireless communication technologies and services, cautions against negative impacts of the US FCC’s recent approval of the use of a previously protected portion of the L band for terrestrial communication on global navigation satellite systems (GNSS) such as GPS and, subsequently, on our large US customer base.

Prior to the FCC’s decision, the license, granted to the American satellite communications company Ligado, was limited to use for satellite communication terminals. Such terminals transmit radio waves directionally toward satellites and receive weak satellite signals.

Following the recent FCC order, Ligado will be free to use these frequencies, which are very close to those used by GNSS receivers, to transmit downlink signals from cell towers and uplink signals from user equipment. These signals are transmitted at dangerously high levels compared to those received by nearby GNSS receivers.

These signals threaten to disrupt the operation of GNSS receivers from any manufacturer operating in the vicinity of a Ligado base station or compatible cellular handset. In an internal study on the susceptibility of u-blox GNSS receivers to interference resulting from such activity, we confirmed that the transmissions would disrupt the operation of nearby GNSS receivers. Our findings, outlined in an application note, show that GNSS receivers would suffer performance losses anywhere near a transmitting Ligado handset and when located up to one kilometer from a Ligado base station, a greater distance than the permitted separation between base stations.

Although we have developed recommendations to mitigate these disruptions, it is important to note that implementing these on millions of deployed products would involve a considerable cost and an inconvenience to our customers and would also affect GNSS receiver performance to some extent. The same would be true for receivers from any other manufacturer.

Read More: Satellite Positioning Security & Safety

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