Stakeholders Signal Support for FCC's 5.9 GHz Item

It was rush hour inside the Beltway as stakeholders rushed to comment on the FCC's unanimous vote at its public meeting Thursday (Dec. 12) to propose reallocating some vehicle-to-vehicle communications spectrum in the 5.9 GHz band for unlicensed WiFi for 5G and IoT.

The FCC is freeing up 45 MHz for WiFi, a big priority for cable broadband operators and their network of hotspots, while leaving a separate 30 MHz for V2V communications.

Statement of Michael Powell, president & CEO, NCTA – The Internet & Television Association on the FCC’s 5.9 GHz Spectrum Band Vote:

“Today’s unanimous pro-consumer action by the Commission proposing to designate a portion of the 5.9 GHz spectrum band for unlicensed use is an important step toward ensuring that America’s WiFi networks are able to unleash gigabit speeds and keep up with the tremendous consumer demand for connectivity at home and on the go," said Michael Powell, president of NCTA-The Internet & Television Association. "This item demonstrates the FCC’s commitment to a balanced spectrum policy which will facilitate the deployment of next-generation networks, and recognizes the massive economic benefit of unlicensed spectrum."

“Today, the Federal Communications Commission took an important step towards addressing the growing need for unlicensed spectrum for WiFi® use," said the WiFi Alliance. WiFi Alliance thanks the Commission for its proposal to repurpose the lower 45 megahertz of the 5.9 GHz band to help support high-throughput broadband applications such as WiFi. We look forward to reviewing this 5.9 GHz Band proposal in detail, and continuing to support the Commission in this and other initiatives that will deliver necessary mid-band spectrum to preserve WiFi connectivity for millions of Americans.”

The 5G Automotive Association also saw the move as driving innovation. "Extensive crash avoidance testing continues to demonstrate that C-V2X [Cellular Vehicle-to-Everything] technology will deliver safety benefits to the American public. We look forward to working with all stakeholders to ensure spectrum regulations adequately address the needs of transportation safety and facilitate America’s global competitiveness in connected and autonomous vehicle technology.”

“Charter applauds chairman Pai and the FCC for moving forward with an NPRM on 5.9 GHz and appreciates commissioners O’Rielly and Rosenworcel’s longstanding commitment to opening this band for unlicensed use," said the cable broadband operator. "By making a portion of this highly-valuable band available for unlicensed use after decades of under-utilization, today’s action sets the stage for innovations like ultra-fast, high capacity, multigigabit WiFi that will power connected classrooms, smart homes and remote healthcare for the benefit of consumers.” 

Michael Calabrese, director of the Wireless Future Project at New America’s Open Technology Institute, joined the rush to praise the item.

“Opening a portion of the unused transportation band for next-generation WiFi marks a significant win for consumers," Calabrese said. "By opening the lower portion of the 5.9 GHz band for unlicensed public use, the FCC is paving the way for gigabit-fast and more affordable WiFi and 5G-capable services in homes and businesses across the country."

“Expanding the unlicensed bands that power WiFi is an essential part of a truly robust 5G wireless ecosystem. WiFi already generates hundreds of billions of dollars for the U.S. economy each year as it’s become the primary way that consumers and business access data on mobile devices. High-capacity WiFi is also increasingly essential to schools, libraries, and other community anchor institutions. This proposal is also a win for consumers because it promotes a new generation of auto safety communications that promises to be integrated with 5G networks.”

"Comcast applauds the FCC’s unanimous vote proposing to permit unlicensed services in part of the 5.9 GHz band," said Tony Werner, president of Technology, Product, Xperience 9TPX) at Comcast Cable. "As we continue to invest in and increase the performance of our gigabit broadband networks, the FCC’s decision to make the 5.9 GHz band available expeditiously will ensure that the WiFi capacity our customers rely on will continue to match the capabilities of our world-class broadband networks. The strong bipartisan support for this item speaks volumes about the importance of this proceeding. The Commission’s compromise proposal is a major step toward delivering next-generation broadband connectivity and strengthening the foundation for 5G, while clearing the path for modern automotive-safety technologies."

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.