The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has voted to move forward with the process of opening the 5.9 GHz wireless safety spectrum to non-transportation users, according to a report by the AASHTO Journal. FCC commissioners said this decision was influenced by the “slow deployment” of dedicated short-range communications (DSRC technology), the development of new transportation systems, and the demand for unlicensed operations like Wi-Fi.
The FCC is supporting Chairman Ajit Pai’s proposal to open up the lower 45 megahertz of the 5.9 GHz band for unlicensed uses such as Wi-Fi, while leaving the remaining 30 megahertz of the band for use by transportation and vehicle safety-related communication services, according to the report.
The transportation industry is already pushing back on this proposal. These airwaves have been used for auto safety. Jim Tymon, executive director of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO), said that this proposal will jeopardize safety.
“The FCC proposal threatens the ongoing investments being made in communications technologies designed to reduce fatalities on the nation’s roadways,” Tymon told the Aashto Journal.
During a recent Transportation Research Board meeting, King Gee, AASHTO’s director of safety and mobility, said, “State departments of transportation provide for the safe and efficient movement of people and goods, so protecting the safety spectrum is important to us. … And only through the addition of technology will we be able to fully achieve zero deaths on our nation’s highway and streets. But such life-saving technology applications must work right every time without interference.”
The Department of Transportation wanted to preserve the 5.9 GHz band for car-to-car communications, which are intended to prevent crashes and will eventually help manage traffic once self-driving and semiautonomous vehicles are on the roads, according to a report by the Motor & Equipment Manufacturers Association (MEMA).
Passing this proposal is the first step in the regulatory process. The Notice of Proposed Rulemaking next goes into the Federal Register, upon which a 30-day comment period begins, according to the AASHTO Journal report. Industry stakeholders and members of the public can voice their opinions during this time.