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24 August 2021

Ligado deepens Open RAN deal with Mavenir as it prepares 5G launch

Ligado Networks, the USA’s would-be wholesale 5G network operator, has announced a co-development deal for 5G base stations, with Open RAN provider Mavenir.

The two companies said in June that they would partner on O-RAN compliant remote radio units (RRUs) and cloud-native O-RAN software, to run in the L-band satellite spectrum in which Ligado aims to deploy its network. Ligado recently secured 3GPP approval for official 5G specs to support L-band, and it says its work with the standards body will also contribute to coexistence efforts between satellite and terrestrial networks in many markets.

In March, Ligado committed itself to support the Rakuten Communications Platform (RCP), which aims to provide a pre-integrated platform for Open RAN. However, the primary RAN software supplier in RCP is Altiostar, which was recently acquired by Rakuten.

Ligado’s 5G plan, originally hatched when it was known as LightSquared, has been delayed for years by opposition from the GPS community, fearing interference with their nearby spectrum, but various technical adjustments and deployment compromises have now brought the company, it claims, close to commercial roll-out. Ligado plans to launch service trials in 2022, providing standalone satellite or hybrid connectivity to enterprise and wholesale customers, initially in the transportation, agriculture, utilities and energy sectors.

“We are deeply committed to supporting critical infrastructure enterprises as they modernize their operations for a 21st century economy,” said Ligado CEO Doug Smith in a statement. “Ubiquitous network coverage and reliability are especially essential for critical device communications, which makes our 5G satellite IoT network a pivotal tool to ensure always-on connectivity and data management for an enterprise’s entire fleet of devices.”

Smith said in a recent interview that a “couple of different vendors” are helping it build a standards-based 5G/satellite air interface. This will support cheaper and smaller devices than proprietary satellite air interfaces as 5G gadgets will be usable. “We can start to do things like integrate the satellite capability into a single chipset and put it on a device,” so that the satellite can be used to provide service where needed, Smith explained.