Ending the Spectrum Wars


Ending the Spectrum Wars

May 28, 2024

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This piece originally appeared in the National Interest.

Nearly four years after the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) approved a license modification for the satellite communications company Ligado, the company’s dispute with the Department of Defense (DOD) and other national security agencies has spawned a $40 billion lawsuit and feels no closer to resolution. 

For telecommunications insiders, the Ligado debacle has become a symbol of our inability to manage our airwaves efficiently. However, the most aggravating part of this years-long dispute is that it may have been avoided if federal experts had properly considered the national security value of commercial wireless technologies.

From walkie-talkies and baby monitors to state-of-the-art Wi-Fi and 5G, all wireless operations use radio waves to send information over the air. Generally speaking, radio waves oscillate at varying frequencies like any other wave. In the context of telecommunications, spectrum typically refers to the different frequency ranges that are available for use. The larger the range of frequencies available, the more data an operator can send.

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