Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai announced a proposal to end a 20-year policy of preserving some wireless bandwidth for transportation uses, such as the connectivity of autonomous vehicles.
Safety advocates, including state transportation directors and the Federal Highway Administration, had urged the FCC to maintain the reservation of that bandwidth for transportation purposes. Communication services providers had lobbied for the release of the bandwidth to other uses, such as Wi-fi.
“Back in 1999, the FCC allocated 75 megahertz of spectrum in the 5.9 GHz band for a service called Dedicated Short-Range Communications,” Pai said during a November speech. “Commonly known as DSRC, this technology was intended to enable ubiquitous transportation and vehicle-related communications. Here we are, two decades later, and the situation can at best be described as ‘promise unfulfilled.'”
DSRC “is not widely deployed. And in the meantime, a wave of new transportation communication technologies has emerged,” he said. “As a result, a lot of people are wondering whether this valuable spectrum—a public resource—is really being put to its best use.
“I’m pleased to announce that today, I shared with my FCC colleagues a proposal… 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.”
Pai said Wi-fi would be a better use for bandwidth “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.”
The Motor and Equipment Manufacturers Association said Pai’s proposal “could compromise motor vehicle safety. This spectrum has long been reserved for intelligent transportation systems communications, including vehicle-to-everything (V2X) and other related communications. It is critical that it remain so.”
In a statement issued following Pai’s announcement, the association argued, “The reservation of this spectrum is indispensable for future safety systems and the development of automated driving. Vehicle safety technologies, including Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) and eventually automation, are being developed to reduce fatalities. Over the long term, splitting the spectrum will severely hinder those efforts. Once the Vehicle Safety Spectrum is lost, it will be impossible to reclaim for vehicle safety purposes.”