FCC Commissioners Mike O’Rielly and Jessica Rosenworcel expressed skepticism today about the future of dedicated short-range communications (DSRC) technology, which automakers say needs spectrum for connected-vehicle safety applications.
During an event this morning organized by WifiForward, the Commissioners noted other technologies that have been introduced or are in the pipeline that can meet safety functions and cited the benefits of making the 5.9 gigahertz band, which the FCC allocated for DSRC nearly 20 years ago, available for unlicensed devices.
“When I look at the auto safety story, I’m … a little dubious on what may actually happen. I know we’ve had some of the car companies talk recently talk about what they may do in this space. We’ve had promises before. They haven’t materialized. We’re talking a 20-plus year history, and we’re not much further than we’ve been in the last couple of years,” Mr. O’Rielly said. He added that there has been “good progress” in the development of C-V2X (cellular vehicle-to-everything) technology.
Ms. Rosenworcel noted the length of time since the FCC set the spectrum in the 5850–5925 megahertz band aside for DSRC technology, and she observed that the National Transportation Safety Board has suggested that it will take 30 years to deploy the solution sufficiently so it can be effective on roadways.
“Spectrum policy needs to move faster,” she added.
She also reiterated her call for the FCC to release test results soon concerning sharing of the 5.9 GHz band between DSRC and unlicensed devices.
The FCC had set a January 2017 deadline for the completion of three phases of testing (TR Daily, June 1, 2016). The results of the first phase, involving lab tests, have yet to be released. The second phase involves basic Department of Transportation field testing, and the third is to deal with real-world testing.
“It is imperative that the agency releases the test data that it has as soon as possible,” Ms. Rosenworcel said today.
An FCC spokesman told TR Daily that he did not have an update on the timing of the release of the test results.
Ms. Rosenworcel said that when discussing connected cars, one must also consider technologies such as radar and sensors. “Car technology is evolving really fast, I think the FCC needs to be mindful of that,” she said.
The value of DSRC “is really shrinking by the day, and that begs the question why 75 MHz is allocated for this purpose,” Mr. O’Rielly added.
He said the interference testing “ran into some hiccups on some of the equipment parts” and thus has taken longer than expected.
But automakers argue that they are making progress in rolling out DSRC technology and that the 5.9 GHz band should be shared with unlicensed devices only if it can be shown that doing so will not cause interference to connected-vehicle applications.
The Commissioners also discussed other bands for unlicensed and licensed operations, and ways to encourage government users and other incumbents to share spectrum or move to other frequencies.
Raul Katz, director–business strategy research at the Columbia Institute for Tele-Information and president of Telecom Advisory Services LLC, discussed a study that was released last week by WifiForward (TR Daily, May 17) that projected that the economic value of unlicensed spectrum in the U.S. will reach $834.48 billion by 2020. The study said that the value of unlicensed spectrum to the U.S. economy has grown 129% since 2013 and totaled $525.19 billion in 2017, of which $29.06 billion contributed to the gross domestic product.
Mr. Katz said today that without more spectrum for Wi-Fi, “we’re going to have difficulty migrating to 5G” and speeds will narrow between Wi-Fi and cellular offerings.
Ms. Rosenworcel again pushed her suggestion of providing “a Wi-Fi dividend” of spectrum every time licensed frequencies are made available. She also said there is a “bias” against unlicensed spectrum in Washington because the Congressional Budget Office does not assign it a value because it is not auctioned.
“That’s why putting a dollar value on it, like you’ve done today, is so important,” she said.
Ms. Rosenworcel also pressed for several of her proposals to provide incentives for government agencies to make some of their spectrum available for other purposes. They include (1) giving agencies a cut of the revenue of spectrum they relinquish, (2) amending the Miscellaneous Receipts Act so winning auction bidders can negotiate overlay rights with incumbents, and (3) developing a spectrum “currency” to value all frequencies.
Mr. O’Rielly said he is “a little disappointed” that FCC Chairman Ajit Pai did not include the 6 GHz band in his announcement yesterday that he will ask his colleagues to consider an item at their July 12 meeting on the 3.7-4.2 GHz band (TR Daily, May 23). Mr. O’Rielly noted that the FCC also studied the 6 GHz band in its mid-band proceeding. He said he would talk with Mr. Pai about that.
“I’d like to see the two go hand in hand, if possible,” he said. “If not, I’d like to know is there a commitment we can make on 6 GHz because I think that’s an incredibly valuable opportunity.”
“I think it’s ready for an NPRM stage, just like I think 3.7–4.2 [GHz] is ready for an NPRM, and [if] we can move them, whether they’re together or really close in line, I think that’s very helpful,” Mr. O’Rielly added.
Mr. O’Rielly also said that a proposed market-based approach for clearing the 3.7–4.2 GHz band is a “new model” and “potentially where we’re going to go in that band.”
The Commissioners also cited unlicensed opportunities in the 3.5 GHz, 4.9 GHz, 37 GHz, 64–71 GHz, and above 95 GHz bands.
They were asked if public safety entities still need access to the 4.9 GHz band given the deployment of the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) system
Mr. O’Rielly, who has challenged his colleagues to consider repurposing the spectrum for commercial use (TR Daily, March 22), said “I’ve raised that exact point” in light of FirstNet. “It’s certainly a valid concern, from my perspective.”
Ms. Rosenworcel noted the Commission has an open proceeding on that spectrum and said she didn’t want to “prejudge it.”
In response to a question about efforts on the international front to scuttle spectrum decisions made by the FCC, Mr. O’Rielly reiterated his frustration with the International Telecommunication Union, including efforts by countries at the 2015 World Radiocommunication Conference to block studies concerning mobile terrestrial use of the 28 GHz band and countries’ vetoing of a mobile terrestrial allocation in the 600 MHz band for neighboring countries.
“We’re at a tipping point where, you know, a number of forward-leaning countries have visions on spectrum policy and advancement for their citizens and others don’t,” he said. “What is going to be the future of the ITU? We’re not going to continue to go to an organization that’s not going to be helpful [for] our purposes.”
Citing his frustration at the WRC-15, he said, “I worry that we’re heading down that road for WRC-19.”
“At some point, the United States and a number of like[-minded] countries are going to do their own thing notwithstanding [the ITU process],” Mr. O’Rielly said. “So I worry about the longstanding longevity of ITU unless we have better cooperation.”
On the question of incentives for federal government agencies to give up spectrum, Mr. O’Rielly said he believes that incentives are good, but he added that “there’s also a place for … a kick in the pants.”
“I’m all carrot and you’re all stick,” Ms. Rosenworcel said, saying that their approach was an indication of how they are as parents.
“That’s not true at all,” Mr. O’Rielly replied to laughter. “I’m actually like Jello. My wife would tell me I’m useless as a parent. I give in all the time. I get to take out my aggression over here in spectrum policy.” —Paul Kirby, email@example.com
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