Cable Ops Push FCC for 5.9 GHz Review

Cable operators are trying to jump-start the FCC's announced review of the 5.9 GHz band currently set aside for connected cars. 

The FCC is looking to allow unlicensed WiFi to share the 75 MHz of spectrum in that band with the incumbent vehicle-to-vehicle (V-to-V) licensed users, yet another of the FCC's efforts to free up more spectrum for next-gen communications including 5G. Cable operators, who rely on WiFi as their primary out-of-home broadband extender, are all for freeing it up, and pushed for the fresh review.  

Car companies have historically pushed back, citing potential interference to those crucial V-to-V communications.  

Related: Hill Chill with 5.9 GHz Review 

Executives from NCTA-The Internet & Television Association as well as members Comcast and Charter met with FCC chair Ajit Pai's legal advisor, Aaron Goldberger, to ask that the FCC "move forward" with its "fresh look" at the band. 

In a May a speech to the WiFi World Congress, Pai said: "Given the swirl of the debate and the vast technological changes that have occurred since the Commission allocated the 5.9 GHz band 20 years ago, I believe that the time has come for the FCC to take a fresh look at this band. We should open up a rulemaking proceeding, seek comment on various proposals for the band’s future, and use the record that we compile to make a final decision on how the band should be allocated." 

The FCC wrapped some initial tests in June that concluded that WiFi devices could peacefully coexist with DSRC if that technology does eventually come into wide use for vehicle-to-vehicle communications, which it may well not given app-based communications that may have overtaken it. 

The government set aside the 5.9 GHz spectrum almost two decades ago (1999) for intelligent vehicle systems, but the technology has yet to materialize. The Obama-era planned mandate of DSRC hasn't, either, under the Trump administration, and some car companies are looking at alternative approaches to vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communications (notably Qualcomm's Cellular Vehicle-to-Everything (C-V2X) technology. 

John Eggerton

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.