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A unanimous decision on 19 April by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) allows Ligado Networks to use its radio spectrum in the 1500–1700 MHz frequency range to develop a ground-based 5G network for smartphones, driverless vehicles, and other internet-connected devices. The FCC approval is unusual and unprecedented: Ligado’s portion of that spectrum range has usually been designated for satellite applications only, and various GPS receivers are likely to malfunction as a result of the decision.
 
Representatives from many communities—airline companies, federal departments, surveyor associations, weather forecasting, and the defense industry, among others—oppose the decision, and many have petitioned the FCC to reconsider. The 30-day period to submit a petition has passed, and FCC rules stipulate that petitions must be responded to within 90 days. But as Physics Today went to press, the FCC had made no public response. On 22 April, the chairs and ranking members of the Senate and House Armed Services Committees warned that if the FCC approval stands, “it will be up to Congress to clean up this mess.”

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Category: Science