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Esper, lawmakers criticize FCC's approval of Ligado 5G proposal

Defense Secretary Mark Esper, shown here during an April 1 press conference, on Thursday tweeted criticism of an FCC-approved proposal to implement a national 5G and IoT network. Photo by Oliver Contreras/UPI
Defense Secretary Mark Esper, shown here during an April 1 press conference, on Thursday tweeted criticism of an FCC-approved proposal to implement a national 5G and IoT network. Photo by Oliver Contreras/UPI | License Photo

April 23 (UPI) -- Secretary of Defense Mark Esper on Thursday criticized a proposal to deploy a nationwide network to provide 5G and internet-of-things services, saying it could disrupt GPS services millions of Americans rely on daily.

The FCC approved the proposal Monday, which would see Ligado Networks deploy 5G and internet-of-things services using L-band spectrum that runs adjacent to spectrum used for GPS.

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"I applaud the congressional defense leaders for their efforts to protect national security, ensure economic prosperity, promote technological leadership, & preserve Americans' way of life," Esper wrote on Twitter.

Esper also posted a link to a Wednesday statement from the Senate Armed Services Committee criticizing the proposal.

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"The problem here is that Ligado's planned usage is not in the prime mid-band spectrum being considered for 5G -- and it will have a significant risk of interference with GPS reception, according to the National Telecommunications and Information Administration," said the statement, which was signed by leadership from both SASC and the House Armed Services Committee, from both political parties.

"The signals interference Ligado's plan would create could cost taxpayers and consumers billions of dollars and require the replacement of current GPS equipment just as we are trying to get our economy back on its feet quickly -- and the FCC has just allowed this to happen," the members of Congress said.

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Thursday's statement is not the first time the Pentagon has criticized the Ligado proposal, and lawmakers tried to stop the proposal earlier in April.

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The DoD is also not alone among federal departments in its criticism.

Over the weekend, the Pentagon issued a joint statement with the Department of Transportation saying the disruption to the Global Positioning System -- which is the basis for most mobile mapping software -- would be massively disruptive to civilian and military life.

"Americans rely on our Global Positioning System each day for many things: to locate citizens in need of emergency assistance through our E-911 system, to secure our financial system, to order and receive shipments, to travel by car for work and leisure, to facilitate commercial trucking and construction work, and even to make a simple cellphone call," the statement said.

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"Our Departments rely on GPS each day for all those reasons as well to coordinate tactical national security operations, launch spacecraft, track threats, and facilitate travel by air and sea. The proposed Ligado decision by the Federal Communications Commission will put all these uses of GPS at risk."

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