Pai Proposes Dual-Use 5.9 GHz Band

WiFi would get 45 MHz, V2V 30
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FCC chair Ajit Pai has come to a decision on the 5.9 GHz band, the one currently reserved for vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communications: He is proposing to make the lower 45 MHz of the available for unlicensed use, including WiFi, while reserving the upper 30 MHz for the new Cellular Vehicle to Everything (C-V2X) approach to intelligent vehicle communications.

Of the 30 MHz for V2V, 20 MHz would definitely go to that new tech, but Pai is proposing seeking comment on whether to give the other 10 to C-V2X or the current DSRC technology, which appears to have been bypassed by the newer, cellular-based tech.

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The chairman said it was past time to turn the page from a failed strategy and "score a major victory" for both V2V and unlicensed use. 

Related: Pai Signals New Proceeding on 5.9 GHz

"The improvements in transportation technology that we’ve enabled demonstrate that many of the features originally envisioned for DSRC are being provided today by other means," the chairman said.  

Pai announced the move Wednesday, pointing out it was a departure from the FCC's initial idea to allow sharing of DSRC with unlicensed use. "Preliminary testing of a sharing regime showed some promise," he said, but added that "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...So moving forward, let’s resist the notion that we have to choose between automotive safety and WiFi. My proposal would do far more for both automotive safety and WiFi than the status quo." 

Pai has scheduled a vote vote on the item at the Dec. 12 meeting. 

Cable operators have been pushing the FCC to free up that spectrum for WiFi hot spots, which is still their principal mobile broadband play.

NCTA-The Internet & Television Association has been advising the FCC to stick to its planned route and free up some Vehicle-to-Vehicle (V2) spectrum for WiFi rather than detour at the behest of intelligent transportation system commenters who want to take it down the road of "a failed technology-specific approach to spectrum policy."

Pai has combined the roads into what he sees as the best route to innovation in both spheres. 

Cable broadband providers were applauding Pai's decision.

“We applaud Chairman Pai’s announcement today that the Commission intends to move forward in considering a new plan for 5.9 GHz spectrum band that will chart a constructive path forward in putting these frequencies to better use for consumers," said NCTA President Michael Powell. "The Chairman’s proposal will enable the fastest gigabit Wi-Fi speeds in America, ensuring that Wi-Fi can keep pace with growing consumer demand and the deployment of next-generation wireless broadband technologies. We also thank Commissioners O’Rielly and Rosenworcel for their tireless efforts in support of unlicensed spectrum, especially enabling Wi-Fi in the 5.9 GHz band. Their voices, joined with many other leaders in Washington, have led to real progress on a balanced spectrum policy that recognizes the extraordinary value of unlicensed spectrum. We look forward to working with the Commission on the 5.9 GHz proceeding and ensuring that American consumers can enjoy the benefits of gigabit Wi-Fi.” 

“Comcast applauds Chairman Pai’s announcement that the FCC will seek to add critical spectrum for unlicensed services," the company said in a statement. "This spectrum is too valuable a national resource to lie fallow any longer. Today’s announcement will ensure that consumers will continue to have Wi-Fi capabilities that support our world-class broadband networks.” 

“Charter is thrilled that the FCC will introduce a proposal to put the highly-valuable 5.9 GHz spectrum to use after decades of under-utilization," the company said. "We commend Chairman Pai for identifying a reasonable compromise and Commissioners O’Rielly and Rosenworcel for their longstanding commitment to opening the band for unlicensed use. The Chairman’s proposal is an important step towards alleviating today’s unlicensed spectrum congestion and will set us on a path to ultra-fast, high capacity, multigigabit WiFi and other innovations. We look forward to working with the Chairman and other Commissioners as they move forward with this important proceeding.” 

“The Chairman’s proposal to segment the 5.9 GHz band between unlicensed and auto safety is a total win-win for consumers," said Michael Calabrese director of the Wireless Future Project at New America's Open Technology Institute. "Both auto safety and faster, more affordable Wi-Fi are very important to consumers and the economy. This proposal can almost immediately add a new gigabit-fast Wi-Fi channel so that schools, libraries, homes and businesses of every kind will have enough bandwidth to support nest generation Wi-Fi technologies.”

V2V backers were also declaring victory.

“The 5G Automotive Association applauds FCC Chairman Ajit Pai for proposing to dedicate a portion of the automotive safety spectrum for the use of Cellular Vehicle-to-Everything (C-V2X)," said that group. "Extensive crash avoidance testing continues to demonstrate that C-V2X technology will deliver safety benefits to the American public. We look forward to working with all stakeholders throughout this process to ensure that spectrum regulations adequately address the needs of transportation safety.” 

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