NCTA calls DSRC ‘failed;’ wants 5.9 GHz for Wi-Fi

Almost two decades ago the U.S. Federal Communications Commission set aside the 5.9 GHz band for dedicated short range communications with the goal of letting vehicles communicate with one another using unlicensed airwaves. Since that move in October 1999, DSRC is currently available in Cadillac CTSs but isn’t available in new U.S. models, according to several sources. Given this lack of adoption, a trade group representing the cable industry wants the FCC to open the valuable mid-band frequency up for alternative uses, particularly Wi-Fi.

In an Oct. 16 letter to the FCC, NCTA SVP, Law and Regulatory Policy, Rick Chessen wrote, “DSRC has failed in the marketplace. After nearly twenty years, despite being granted exclusive spectrum and being heavily subsidized by the government, incumbent DSRC services remain largely in the pilot phase.”

Because of that, Chessen suggests the FCC consider rule changes that would reallocated the 5.9 GHz band to expand unlicensed frequencies available to Wi-Fi. “American consumers and businesses need additional mid-band Wi-Fi spectrum as soon as possible, just to keep pace with today’s consumer and enterprise needs…Wi-Fi already securely carries medical telemetry in hospitals, hundreds of billions of dollars in financial transactions daily, important machine communications, and many other crucial services on which people depend in their everyday lives. Because of this growing reliance, Wi-Fi will play an increasingly important role in the delivery of next-generation broadband technologies like growing Internet of Things applications and 5G.”

FCC Commissioners Jessica Rosenworcel and Michael O’Rielly both quickly came out in support of re-examining use of the 5.9 GHz spectrum.

“It is pure folly to believe that DSRC will ever work as envisioned, as time and technology advancements elsewhere have undermined previous use cases,” O’Rielly said in a statement. “As NCTA correctly seeks in today’s ex parte letter, the Commission should quickly reexamine the 5.9 GHz band for repurposing. Once concluded, I am confident that at least 45 megahertz can be reallocated for unlicensed services without jeopardizing automobile safety.”

Rosenworcel agreed that “autonomous and connected vehicles have largely moved beyond [DSRC] technology to newer, market-driven alternatives. It is time to take a fresh look at this band to allow a broader range of uses.”



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