FCC to split 5.9GHz spectrum between automotive and wireless industries

Wireless networks
(Image credit: Shutterstock / Vasin Lee)

The US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) wants to reallocate spectrum assigned to the automotive industry to improve Wi-Fi connectivity, claiming additional bandwidth is essential to support the country’s growing wireless demand.

Airwaves in the 5.9GHz band were originally set aside for the development of dedicated short-range communications (DSRC) technology that would allow cars to speak to each other, improving road safety and reducing accidents.

However little progress has been made since this allocation back in 1999. The FCC’s view is that DSRC technology has been superseded by the cellular-based C-V2X standard that allow cars to speak not just to each other, but street furniture, cyclists, and the wider network.

FCC 5.9GHz

It believes that the division of the band between the automotive and the Wi-Fi industries will generate greater value for Americans. This will not only aid the performance of Wi-Fi devices but also allow the FCC to give permanent spectrum licences to Wireless ISPs that provide broadband services to rural areas of the country.  

“5.9 GHz spectrum has lain fallow for far too long. 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,” said FCC Chairman Ajit Pai.

“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.”

Although the proposal only affects the US, this will inevitably have an impact on other countries given the huge size of the US market and the presence of so many major technology vendors and car manufacturers.

Steve McCaskill is TechRadar Pro's resident mobile industry expert, covering all aspects of the UK and global news, from operators to service providers and everything in between. He is a former editor of Silicon UK and journalist with over a decade's experience in the technology industry, writing about technology, in particular, telecoms, mobile and sports tech, sports, video games and media.