FCC chairman signals an end to DSRC as he prepares to carve up 5.9GHz spectrum – but ITS America hits back

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In a dramatic statement issued today (27 October 2020) FCC chairman Ajit Pai finally revealed the detail of his thinking on the breaking up of the 5.9GHz band, currently reserved for transportation safety communications in the USA.

Pai stated that he not only wants the lower 45 megahertz of the spectrum be opened up for unlicensed wi-fi, but also that DSRC for V2X (vehicle-to-everything) should be phased out in the remaining 30 megahertz, in favour of C-V2X (cellular vehicle-to-everything). The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) will vote on the new rules at its 18 November meeting.

Ajit Pai

“5.9 GHz spectrum has lain fallow for far too long.” said Pai . “For the last two decades, the American people have waited for this prime mid-band spectrum to be put to use, and the time for waiting is over. We should move on from DSRC and unlock forward-looking automotive safety technology. Under my approach, the FCC would for the first time authorize C-V2X in the 5.9 GHz band.

“At the same time, we would make available the spectrum needed for a 160 megahertz-wide channel for wi-fi, which would enable a new level of gigabit connectivity for schools, hospitals, small businesses, and other consumers.”

The stinging statement, which also claimed that “DSRC has done virtually nothing to improve automotive safety” was met with shock across much of the connected vehicle community in the USA.

Many live DSRC pilots are currently underway across the nation – some sponsored by the USDOT – and the proposed ending of the use of such technology is seen by some as a potential waste of many years of hard work. However, the greatest anger was perhaps reserved for the fact that the majority of the spectrum won’t be reserved for transportation use at all.

Statement from Shailen Bhatt

Shailen Bhatt

“The Intelligent Transportation Society of America (ITS America) has warned that reallocating the majority of the 5.9 GHz band without fully considering the effects on public safety is reckless,” said ITS president and CEO Shailen Bhatt in a counter statement. “In fact, the definition of tragedy and irony is the FCC giving away the safety spectrum to ‘entrenched corporate interests’ to profit from and ignoring transportation safety experts from USDOT, all 50 state DOTs, MADD, the National Sherriff’s Association, Families for Safe Streets, the International Association of Firefighters, the League of American Bicyclists, the National Safety Council, the National Transportation Safety Board, and dozens of additional organizations dedicated to safety on American roadways.

“While we appreciate the need to allow C-V2X in the band, it is extremely shortsighted and detrimental to the millions of people who travel on US roads every day for the FCC to reallocate 45 MHz of spectrum from transportation safety to unlicensed devices such as wi-fi. ITS America intends to pursue all available avenues to protect public safety in communities across the country by preventing such action.”

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About Author

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Tom has edited Traffic Technology International magazine and the Traffic Technology Today website since May 2014. During his time at the title he has interviewed some of the top transportation chiefs in charge of public agencies around the world as well as chairmen and CEOs of multinational transportation technology corporations. Tom's early career saw him working on some the UK's leading consumer magazine titles. He has a law degree from the London School of Economics (LSE).