FCC move may affect vehicle wireless

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The Federal Communications Commission investigates how the radio spectrum used for wireless communication is allocated, and the 5.9 GHz frequency reserved for vehicle safety applications may be a victim of the process.

Over the last few months, the FCC, led by chairman Ajit Pai, has put in place plans to free up spectrum for non-licensed use, which means that industries and technologists can use connectivity without prior authorization.

Experts say that a boom in applications for low-power connectivity and the demand for Internet access in rural areas could lead the agency to claim the automotive industry's spectrum, which allows wireless vehicle-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure technology. makes, re-evaluates.

In recent years, the industry has struggled with the pursuit of special short-range communication, known as DSRC, or cellular connectivity. But both need access to the radio spectrum for vehicle security services.

For the FCC, mobile phone data and national Internet services are "a higher priority than protecting spectrum for security applications," says Roger Lanctot, an analyst with Strategy Analytics. The decision to share the spectrum "that the FCC must create has implications for both cellular and DSRC."

Waiting for talking cars

The slow approach of car manufacturers to roll out "speaking car" technology has affected the arguments for vehicle-vehicle communication, experts say, and made room for others to claim the spectrum.

"Among spectrum and wireless experts there is a reason why it took so long," says Brent Skorup, researcher at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, specializing in wireless policy and transportation technology.

There is only one vehicle on the market with DSRC vehicle-to-vehicle capabilities, the Cadillac CTS sedan. The brand plans to roll out connectivity with more nameplates in the coming years and Toyota has announced that it will install DSRC transmitters in cars in 2021.

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But the lack of consumer introduction has led to skeptics calling for new applications for the spectrum, which in 1999 was intended for vehicle safety applications.

"At the time of allocation, we did not have commercial applications or new radar technologies that could play a key role in improving road safety and thus saving lives," said President Pai in a July statement. "I hope we can take a smart decision quickly to bring this spectrum directly to the benefit of the consumer."

The FCC refused to comment on decisions about spectrum sharing.

New Approach

In the decade since the DSRC standards for vehicle-to-vehicle communication were first codified, an explosion of wireless use has prompted the FCC to reconsider its approach to spectrum use.

"The traditional way to allocate spectrum was to distribute it free to different industries that have a good public use case," Skorup said. "The FCC has come from that and that's why people look at DSRC."

Lobbyists representing industries interested in using the spectrum, such as NCTA – the Internet & Television Association, have put the FCC under pressure to continue the assessment of car safety.

And this month, the agency announced that it will vote to use the 6.0 GHz band without a license, varying from about 5.9 GHz to 7.1 GHz, for laptops, phones and other devices.

Competing interests

Although the decision would not necessarily exclude the application of the 5.9 GHz range to automotive safety, experts say, this would be a harbinger of regulators who ultimately decide to release the spectrum.

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Although it is unclear in which direction the FCC chooses the 5.9 GHz spectrum, a notable fact is that much of the work that has been done to advance vehicle-to-infrastructure technology has been funded and encouraged by the US Department of Transportation. Transport.

"The department continues to work on maintaining the ability to operate transport safety applications in the 5.9 GHz spectrum," regulators wrote in the third edition of the autonomous vehicle policy guidelines released this month.

DSRC communication modules are installed in traffic boxes, lights and other infrastructure to communicate with cars on the road and manage traffic. According to regulators, more than $ 38 million of investments in connected infrastructure are planned for 2020 for federal, state and local authorities – all of which use the spectrum reserved for communication between vehicle and infrastructure.

Some say that the prediction of spectrum reallocation has put the industry in a stasis.

It's "a big shoe that we're all waiting to see fall for," Lanctot said. "I think the debate has unfortunately not progressed at all."