Last year was a great year for the Ligado Networks, according to Scott Wiener, Ligado’s chief marketing and strategy officer. In mid-April, it received a unanimous bipartisan approval from the FCC, determining that it can deploy a terrestrial network in the L-band, which is between 1 GHz and 2 GHz.
In October 2020, Ligado Networks announced that it had raised nearly $4 billion in new capital. Led by JPMorgan Chase & Co., Ligado secured $3.85 billion from existing and new investors.
“What’s really great about that is we now have the service rules in place, and we know how to put the spectrum to use,” Wiener said in an interview with Mike Dano, Light Reading, during the Competitive Carriers Association’s Mobile Carrier Show in late March. “That is what really brings us to look forward and to be advancing and developing the 5G mobile private network solution.”
This year has started out pretty well, as well, with the signing of an agreement with Rakuten Mobile, to use the Rakuten Communications Platform, which is an end-to-end cloud native, software-centric, open RAN-based mobile network, as the blueprint for Ligado’s 5G mobile private network solution.
The Rakuten agreement is the cornerstone of Ligado’s efforts to create a 5G vendor ecosystem. The companies will work with equipment ecosystem partners and vendors to establish a timeline for the implementation of network trials.
“We think it’s just a great combination, taking Ligado’s licensed spectrum and Rakuten’s open RAN mobile technology,” Wiener said. “We think it’s just a perfect product for the enterprise space, so we are really excited about it.”
Wiener said the trials are key to demonstrating 5G mobile private networks, which are going to increasingly important to companies as they undergo digital transformations to modernize their operations.
“5G mobile private networks is a market opportunity that’s poised for adoption,” he said. “We are going to chase after this identified market opportunity. We are developing a product, and we are inviting others to participate with us and to innovate.”
The greatest opportunities that Wiener said he sees right now are in vertical markets, such as manufacturing, healthcare and energy.
“Take for example, a hospital that has a campus environment where there’s such a need for connectivity, not just in the ICU but in the emergency room and outpatient services throughout the campus,” he said. “That’s a deployment scenario that’s great for L band, because we have a mid-band spectrum asset with great propagation. It’s licensed, so it can be dedicated exclusively, just for the enterprise user.”
Ligado plans to customize its private networks, sometimes using only L band spectrum and other times combining licensed L band spectrum with the unlicensed spectrum in the Citizens Broadband Radio Service.
“That gives you the best of both worlds,” Wiener said. With licensed spectrum, you’re going to be able to support the mission critical applications, dedicating it 100 percent to a single customer at a single location for maximum service reliability. But, there’s also a role for CBRS because what that brings to the table is wider channels to support higher bandwidth and low latency requirements and edge computing and private network traffic routing.”