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Cable, Car Companies Agree on 5.9 GHz Testing

With the bipartisan backing of Senate Commerce Committee leadership, cable companies and automakers have gotten together to ask the FCC to conduct testing on sharing in the 5 GHz band.

The FCC wants to expand the band's use for Wi-Fi in the 5.9 GHz portion, as do cable operators using the band, but auto companies, which use 5.9 for vehicle-to-vehicle communications have been concerned with expanding that use, and the potential for interference with vehicle control systems and communications, just as V2V takes off.

In separate but essentially identical letters to the FCC, DOT and Commerce dated Sept. 9, the stakeholders—National Cable & Telecommunications Association, Qualcomm, SES, Intelsat, the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers and The Association of Global Automakers—and legislators—Commerce Committee chair Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), and members Corey Booker (D-N.J.) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.)—urged the agencies to work together to facilitate testing that could be concluded by December 2016.

"We are committed to finding the best path forward to protect the development and deployment of advanced automotive safety systems while also considering the need for additional unlicensed spectrum to meet the increasing demand for wireless broadband Internet services," the signatories of both letters told the agencies, adding: "There is broad support from interested parties, including the undersigned, for conducting tests that are fairly administered and can determine whether various sharing proposals do or do not cause harmful interference to incumbents, including primary incumbent satellite services operating in the 5.9 GHz band."

They want the FCC to take the lead in the testing. The FCC had no immediate response to the letter.

“We are grateful for the efforts of Chairman Thune and others to develop consensus principles that urge the FCC to establish an open and transparent testing plan for spectrum sharing in the upper 5 GHz band," NCTA said in a statement. "Such action is necessary to support both the skyrocketing growth of unlicensed technologies like Wi-Fi and the legitimate safety-related needs of the auto industry.  With this call for greater collaboration and a renewed commitment to test and fairly consider all legitimate proposals expeditiously, we are confident that we can forge the win-win solutions needed to put these frequencies to their best use for the American people.”

The stakeholders all praised the Senators' leadership on the issue. 

The letter asked that the following principles guide that testing.

"The FCC, in close coordination with the Department of Transportation (DOT) and Department of Commerce (DOC), should take the lead to ensure that requisite spectrum testing and modelling is conducted so the government has all the information it needs to determine how best to proceed in terms of interference-avoidance and allocation of spectrum use rights in the 5.9 GHz band.

"DOT should continue to take the lead, in close coordination with the FCC and DOC, with respect to overseeing the development of 5.9 GHz DSRC technology, vehicle safety testing, and 5.9 GHz DSRC capabilities testing.

"With respect to its spectrum allocation and interference-avoidance analysis in the 5.9 GHz band, the FCC should take input from all relevant public and private sector stakeholders, including but not limited to DOT, DOC, the satellite industry, the ITS industry, the automobile industry, the telecommunications industry, and the Wi-Fi industry.

"Engineers should be responsible for the 5.9 GHz interference testing and for addressing 5.9 GHz compatibility issues.

"The testing should examine all reasonable options and mechanisms for sharing in the 5.9 GHz band and for the avoidance of harmful interference from unlicensed to authorized users and licensees in the 5.9 GHz band.

"The testing of various 5.9 GHz unlicensed sharing proposals should be conducted in a way that allows test proposals, results, and underlying data to be meaningfully compared and evaluated. Public and private participants in 5.9 GHz interference testing should coordinate with the FCC on their proposals.

"If a private sector party wants its 5.9 GHz unlicensed sharing proposal to be considered, the burden is on it to develop and present the proposal with sufficient specificity for consideration and testing and to make relevant test equipment and prototype devices available for testing. Similarly, DSRC devices to be protected should be made available for testing against unlicensed proposals.

"The FCC is free to foster or propose its own options for consideration, consistent with existing law.

"To the extent feasible, and with confidentiality mechanisms in place to protect trade secrets and commercially sensitive information if necessary, results and underlying data from any testing of 5.9 GHz unlicensed sharing proposals to be considered by the FCC should be made available to the public by placing such information in the FCC’s open docket; the data and results from tests of DSRC systems cited in comments filed with the FCC or conducted previously using federal funds and resources should also be published, where feasible.

"To the extent practicable, 5.9 GHz interference testing should be completed by December 31, 2016."

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.