Automakers Want to Keep 5.9 GHz for Transportation

The Association of Global Automakers, The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, The Intelligent Transportation Society of America, The 5G Automotive Association and The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials strongly support preserving the full 5.9 GHz band for transportation safety use, as it has been allocated.

“The decision to shrink the amount of airwaves devoted to auto safety is directly at odds with what federal highway safety officials are recommending and threatens to throw advancements in personal safety into reverse. At the same time the spectrum giveaway was being proposed, officials from the U.S. Department of Transportation and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration testified in the Senate that the entire auto safety spectrum is critical to highway safety for both urban and rural areas. Choosing faster downloads over saving human lives is simply the wrong decision.”

Across the country today, V2X applications are being deployed on the 5.9 GHz spectrum. The Safety Spectrum should be reserved for advancements in safety and saving human lives.”

Our members are actively developing technologies, and own and operate critical highway and other transportation infrastructure that connects vehicles to vehicles, to other road users, and to their environment to help reduce crashes. Connected vehicle and infrastructure technology includes vehicle communication with bicyclists, pedestrians, traffic lights, and advanced alerts of hazards like ice on roadways, commonly known as vehicle-to-everything (V2X). Additionally, they can enhance automated driving systems, which hold the promise to provide numerous economic, environmental, and societal benefits, such as decreased congestion and fuel consumption, and increased access for the elderly and disabled.

The entire 5.9 GHz band is needed to achieve the full benefit of these communication technologies in the years to come. These safety innovations require dedicated spectrum to ensure they work right every time without signal interference. Millions of dollars have already been invested in this effort, including incorporating connected vehicle technologies into infrastructure.

We are on the cusp of a major breakthrough in vehicle connectivity and safety innovations. With significant past and present investments in connected vehicle innovations, V2X technologies are already being deployed for the purposes of improving road safety. This will only continue moving forward. With 37,133 deaths on U.S. roadways last year alone, we must take every opportunity to save the lives of road users. Connected vehicle technologies offer the U.S. a powerful set of tools to save lives, but only if these technologies are given the ability to progress. We support protecting the entire 5.9 GHz band for transportation safety applications. Any unlicensed use in the band should be done without harmful interference to the incumbent technology or other intelligent transportation systems technologies.”

The other option is C-V2X technology.

“Back in 1999, the FCC allocated 75 megahertz of spectrum in the 5.9 GHz band for a service called Dedicated Short-Range Communications. Commonly known as DSRC, this technology was intended to enable ubiquitous transportation and vehicle-related communications.But results haven’t matched that intent. Here we are, two decades later, and the situation can at best be described as “promise unfulfilled.” DSRC has evolved slowly. It’s not widely deployed. And in the meantime, a wave of new transportation communication technologies has emerged,” Commissioner Anjit Pai said in a speech.

After 20 years of seeing these prime airwaves go largely unused, the time has come for the FCC to take a fresh look at the 5.9 GHz band. And I’m pleased to announce that today, I shared with my FCC colleagues a proposal to end the uncertainty around the 5.9 GHz band and set a path for the deployment of new services. Specifically, I’m proposing to make available the lower 45 MHz of the band for unlicensed uses like Wi-Fi and allocate the upper 20 MHz for a new automotive communications technology, Cellular Vehicle to Everything, or C-V2X. I’m also proposing that we seek public input on whether to allocate the remaining 10 MHz in the band to C-V2X or DSRC.

The Commission will vote on this Notice of Proposed Rulemaking at our December 12 meeting.

Let me go into a little more detail on what we’re proposing, starting with unlicensed uses.

DSRC’s lack of progress over the past 20 years becomes even starker when you consider that 1999 also marked the birth of Wi-Fi. Since its launch, Wi-Fi has become a staple of everyday life. It binds together all our phones and laptops. It has become a foundational technology for the Internet of Things, connecting our TVs, thermostats, baby monitors, refrigerators, washing machines, toys, and even toilets. It drives basic consumer decisions, like where to reserve a hotel room. Small wonder that a survey a few years ago found that 40% of consumer-respondents said Wi-Fi was more important to them on a daily basis than intimate relations, alcohol, and chocolate.

Wi-Fi now carries more than half of the Internet’s traffic. It has arguably kept cellular networks afloat by reducing the traffic load on those networks.
But Wi-Fi’s popularity has raised a challenge for regulators: We need to make more spectrum available for unlicensed use. Indeed, to meet growing consumer demand, it’s estimated that the U.S. will need to allow unlicensed use of up to 1.6 GHz of new mid-band spectrum by 2025.

The FCC hears this call. Last October, we began to explore opening up a massive 1,200 megahertz of spectrum in the 6 GHz band for different types of unlicensed uses. And as I mentioned, today, I’m proposing to permit unlicensed operations in the lower 45-megahertz portion of the 5.9 GHz band. Thanks to its neighbor, this spectrum would punch above its weight. The adjacent 5.725-to-5.850 GHz band is currently available for unlicensed operations, making this 45 MHz sub-band ideally suited for unlicensed use.

Having more contiguous spectrum here is essential for the larger channels needed to support innovative use cases.

It’s important to note that my proposal marks a departure from our recent exploration of allowing unlicensed devices to share the same spectrum with DSRC. Preliminary testing of a sharing regime showed some promise, but further testing would be needed to carry out a complex sharing regime, and more testing would mean this valuable spectrum would likely lie fallow for several years.

As it is, this valuable mid-band spectrum has been lying largely fallow for two decades. We are well past the point where American consumers should accept significant additional delays in putting this spectrum to use for them. And it’s not just that sharing spectrum between unlicensed uses and DSRC would take time. It also adds complexity and raises the question of whether, given its past, DSRC is a technology with a future. That’s why I believe the best course is to dedicate 45 MHz exclusively for unlicensed operations, and also to establish a home exclusively for transportation-related communications.”


“Advocates of each will be able to make their case,” Pai said.

The FCC is scheduled to vote on the proposal at its Dec. 12 meeting

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