FCC Action on 5.9 GHz Will Free Up Vital Spectrum for Unlicensed Use | Citizens Against Government Waste

FCC Action on 5.9 GHz Will Free Up Vital Spectrum for Unlicensed Use

The WasteWatcher

The Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) November meeting agenda includes an item that has been strongly supported by Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) and other taxpayer and free market organizations to modernize the 5.9 GHz spectrum band by freeing up a portion of the band for unlicensed use.  In 1999, 75 MHz of this spectrum was allocated for Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) automotive communications using only one specific technology known as dedicated short-range communications (DSRC).  

DSRC technology was not only used sparingly, but it has also long been surpassed by newer automotive ITS communications and safety features that do not use this spectrum band.  Indeed, newer ITS technology is incompatible with DSRC operations in the same band, and as Citizens Against Government Waste noted in reply comments for this proceeding, future technologies seeking to use this band must apply to the FCC for an experimental license to determine whether there would be interference with DSRC technology.  

The FCC’s proposal splits the 5.9 GHz band into two separate bands:  the upper 30 MHz portion of the band will be designated initially for DSRC, with a further notice of proposed rulemaking to determine if this spectrum should be reallocated to future ITS technology such as cellular vehicle to everything, or C-V2X, after DSRC is eventually retired.  The lower 45 MHz of the band will be allocated for unlicensed use.  

The reallocation will create one contiguous 160 MHz band of unlicensed spectrum when combined with the existing U-NII-3 unlicensed band in the 5.725 to 5.850 GHz range.  This has already been proven to be critical for keeping Americans connected during the pandemic after the FCC granted temporary access to the spectrum in March 2020.  

On October 28, 2020, Citizens Against Government Waste Vice President for Policy and Government Affairs Deborah Collier participated in a panel discussion about the need for additional unlicensed spectrum, and the importance of freeing up portions of this band for Wi-Fi applications.  She said, “… CAGW has long maintained that public resources like the 5.9 GHz band should be maximized to their fullest potential, and the upcoming vote on this proceeding on November 18, will help increase the utilization of this particular spectrum band.”

The FCC will be taking a much needed and significant step to improve the availability and use of spectrum, which is a limited resource owned by the taxpayers.  The agency should continue to make decisions like this going forward to ensure that the U.S. remains at the forefront of innovation in global technology and telecommunications.     


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