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Globalstar eyes 'busy 2017' after FCC ruling on 2.4 GHz spectrum

Globalstar Inc. has been trying for four years to deploy a terrestrial low-power broadband network. After a recent FCC ruling, it might finally happen.

The commission said Dec. 23 that it voted unanimously to modify its 2.4 GHz rules to allow Globalstar to offer a terrestrial wireless network while also maintaining its satellite offering. The new network will use Globalstar's 11.5 MHz of licensed spectrum in the 2.4 GHz band.

The ruling has been a long time coming. Globalstar first requested the modifications in 2012, but the company's initial plan also asked the FCC to grant Globalstar permission to combine its own licensed spectrum with an adjacent unlicensed band primarily used for Bluetooth and Wi-Fi.

Various groups and certain FCC commissioners had objected to that initial plan based on concerns that Globalstar's use of the unlicensed spectrum would interfere with current Wi-Fi systems and Bluetooth operations.

Though Globalstar maintained that such interference concerns were unfounded, the company said in November that it had narrowed its proposal to cover only its existing licensed spectrum.

"Under the revised proposal, it is beyond technical debate that Globalstar's low-power terrestrial operations within its licensed spectrum at 2483.5-2495 MHz would raise no interference risks for unlicensed operations," the company said in its November filing.

Following the FCC's vote to approve the satellite company's revised proposal, Globalstar CEO Jay Monroe said in a news release, "We look forward to a busy 2017 as we plan to put our terrestrial authority to use for American consumers and pursue similar authority internationally."

The company has said it plans to use its low-power operations to support traditional mobile broadband services, including voice, data and text applications, in a variety of settings across the U.S.

Republican FCC Commissioner Michael O'Rielly, who had opposed Globalstar's initial proposal, called the commission's decision a "positive conclusion" to the multiyear proceeding.

"In the end, the Commission is permitting Globalstar to deploy a terrestrial network using spectrum licensed to it for satellite services. Whether that network ever comes to fruition is for Globalstar and the marketplace to decide," O'Rielly said.