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FCC wants to share 5.9 GHz Wi-Fi band for connected cars

Published: January 13, 2015 | Washington DC

At an event in Washington DC today called “The Road to Gigabit Wi-Fi,” FCC commissioners spoke about the need to share the 5.9GHz WiFi spectrum with smart cars to allow future expansion. 

The auto and high-tech industries are on a collision course over more than the future of driverless cars: A more immediate battle is being waged over access to the public airwaves, sparked by a FCC proposal to pave the road for super-fast Wi-Fi by allowing unlicensed devices to share the large but mostly-unused Intelligent Transportation Services (ITS) band at 5.9 GHz.

A key concern is auto safety. The Department of Transportation has tentatively decided it will mandate the implementation of vehicle-to-vehicle communication in all new cars using a wireless technology that operates on the 5.9 GHz ITS band. Although this safety signaling technology (DSRC) will use only a portion of the band – and take 20-to-30 years to fully implement – auto companies want priority use of the entire 75 megahertz of spectrum for a host of other wireless applications and services.


Wi-Fi already carries more than 60% of all mobile device data traffic, making wireless Internet access far more available, fast and affordable. But as unlicensed bands grow more congested and users demand more high-bandwidth apps, such as video chat and streaming, opening large tracts of unlicensed spectrum 5.9 GHz is key to creating the “wider pipe” required for gigabit Wi-Fi networks. 

According to Rosenworcel, the 5.9GHz band is an “ideal place” to explore WiFi expansion, which would help deliver network speeds beyond 1 gigabit per second.

Automotive companies are concerned that sharing the spectrum with Wi-Fi could cause interference, which is why testing is slated to begin in the coming years.

O’Rielly argued that DSCR is both “underutilized and underwhelming [and] we won’t see our first deployment outside of a testing area until 2017, when Cadillac will equip its CTC with DSRC” with the rest of the industry not expected to follow for “at least another two years.”

If the FCC is successful at splitting and sharing the 5.9GHz spectrum, it’s a promising proposition for home WiFi — you’ll be able to get speeds that are only able to be delivered via a network cable right now.

Source: The New America


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