The Issues GPS May Be Facing in the Future

Everyone is familiar with using GPS, or Global Positioning System. It’s all but completely replaced the use of traditional maps, and everyone uses it- especially pilots. What’s interesting to note, however, is that despite how widely used it is, the signal itself may be in jeopardy due to a decision made by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

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To supply context, Ligado, formally known as LightSquared, is attempting to make a network plan to “build a terrestrial-based communication network that will accelerate 5G and the emerging Industrial Internet of Things”. Which essentially means that it will try to utilize the 5G mobile network to make use of smart features like seeing if the coffee machine can connect to the network to order new coffee when it runs out. It’s called the L-Band Spectrum, which is primarily used for mission critical industries like public safety, emergency response, commercial transportation, energy, and manufacturing.


So that’s well and good, but how does this affect GPS at all? The first major concern is the signal. As Ligado plans to create a spectrum to function similarly to GPS, there will be inherent signal interference. This is important because even if Ligado’s plans solely involve safety industries, the signal will still be prevalent, and GPS is used by everyone. This includes the Departments of Defense, Transportation, and Justice, as well as airline industries, farmers, road builders, boaters, general aviation, and many more. The estimated GPS economic impact is about $1.4 trillion, and considering that its’ use might be drastically reduced, it could cause problems with a lot of people.

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Ligado mentions that they have developed some mitigations to ease possible interferences with the Department of Defense’s GPS systems. They’ve made a 23MHz guard band to reduce the amount of power between communications with its own system, and GPS. The issue, however, is that there is no clear statement on whether this consideration is made for regular GPS consumers, and this lack of consideration causes many organizations believe that the Ligado system and GPS cannot co-exist. There are many who are against the FCC’s actions, with formal requests to rescind the license approval of Ligado. There have been other worries as well, such as potential costs facing Ligado from the possible damage it could do to GPS reliability. Due to this, Ligado announced “more than $100 million in new investments” to accommodate these industries, but there has been no direct statement on who the investors are.


If you use GPS, this may be important to look into, so be sure to do more research and discuss these issues with your senators and representatives! In the meantime, Norfolk Aviation will always be here to update you on the latest happenings in everything related to aviation news so you can stay as knowledgeable as possible. As your trusted partner in aircraft brokerage, put our decades of knowledge and experience to work for you. Whether you’re buying, selling, or customizing an aircraft, contact us today and let’s see how we can help you soar to new heights!

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