Crowding the 5.9-GHz Lane

State highway officials have told the Federal Communications Commission not to free up 5.9 Gigahertz spectrum for WiFi use.

Car manufacturers have been arguing against sharing the spectrum with cable WiFi, and state DOTs are right with them. That’s according to an Aug. 19 letter to the agency from the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO).

Currently, the 5.9-GHz band is reserved for vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communications, but app-based communications appear to be superseding that technology, which has essentially lay fallow for two decades. But AASHTO has said the debate about what technology V2V will use should not be an excuse to open the spectrum to non-transportation applications.

Toyota agreed, telling the FCC in meetings that an attempt to share the spectrum road with cable WiFi service could lead to a hit-and-run scenario, threatening technology that could protect pedestrians and other “vulnerable” road users.

The FCC is under pressure to free up as much spectrum for advanced communications as possible, so it has been looking hard at the band. But AASHTO has said, not in our transportation backyard.

“The top priority for the state DOTs and AASHTO has been — and will always remain — the safety of all transportation system users,” it told the FCC. “The loss of 36,750 lives last year on our nation’s highways and streets demands that we act boldly. To this end, connected vehicles (CV) utilizing Vehicle-to-Everything (V2X) communication in the 5.9 GHz spectrum will save lives by creating a seamless, cooperative environment that significantly improves the safety of our transportation system.”

WiFi Forward, a group that includes cable operators, has said continuing the policy of dedicated V2V spectrum is the wrong road, and would “merely perpetuate the waste of this extremely valuable resource.”

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.