The FCC has granted LightSquared a three-month period to assess the technical feasibility of using the 1675–1680 MHz band for mobile broadband services on a shared basis with existing federal operations.
The grant makes good on policy set forth in a July 2012 report from the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) that proposed using 1,000 MHz of federal spectrum for "shared use superhighways."
Far from a widely accepted practice, spectrum sharing has been widely criticized by CTIA, as well as some members of the FCC, including Commissioner Ajit Pai.
In a recent call with press and analysts, Chris Guttman-McCabe, CTIA's vice president of regulatory affairs, made it clear that spectrum sharing is not the end goal, noting that the report from the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST), which recommended sharing airwaves, did not have adequate input from the wireless industry.
"There were no infrastructure vendors, no handset vendors at the time and no carriers," Guttman-McCabe said of PCAST. "We believe here, there needs to be a focus on clearing...as a fallback, we are perfectly comfortable investigating sharing...but with the goal of eventually clearing that spectrum."
LightSquared's experimental grant results from a review process conducted by the Interdepartment Radio Advisory Committee (IRAC), a committee charged with developing and executing policies and technical criteria relating to the allocation, management and use of spectrum allocated for U.S. government uses and comprised of representatives from a variety of federal agencies and departments, including the FCC, NTIA, NOAA, FAA, Navy, Army and Air Force.
The grant is similar in nature to the experimental authority granted to T-Mobile to assess the feasibility of sharing a different spectrum band with the Department of Defense.
The FCC's OK to test the feasibility of sharing on the 1675-1680 MHz band is one of few wins for the company. LightSquared's initial plan to launch a satellite-based mobile broadband network was shot down on grounds that it would interfere with GPS systems. The company later filed bankruptcy.
Since then, the company has regrouped, and in September of 2012, presented the FCC with a plan that it believes will overcome the interference issues cited in the commission's initial review of the plan. LightSquared has suggested that it would not use those frequencies that were at issue for interference.