Global Automakers

Comments to FCC on 5.9GHz Band

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July 7, 2016


In 1999, the Federal Communications Commission (“FCC” or “Commission”) allocated 75 MHz of spectrum in the 5.850-5.925 GHz (“5.9 GHz”) band for improving road safety and efficiency through a variety of Dedicated Short Range Communications (“DSRC”) applications.1 In allocating this spectrum and adopting detailed rules for its use, the FCC aimed to “encourage the private sector to develop operational standards facilitating nationwide compatibility and interoperability of [safety] applications.”2 

In its 2004 Order promulgating rules for DSRC equipment and applications, the Commission emphatically stressed the importance of DSRC’s safety-of-life features and the concomitant requirement that DSRC operations be reliable across the nation if we are to reap its greatest safety benefits.3 Indeed, the FCC noted that “the importance” of DSRC safety applications “cannot be underestimated” and that “[t]imeliness and reliability are essential components in this service.”4

The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers (“Alliance”), Association of Global Automakers (“Global Automakers”), Intelligent Transportation Society of America (“ITSA”), and DENSO International America, Inc. (“DENSO”), and others have relied on the FCC’s commitment to keep the 5.9 GHz band free from harmful interference. We have also relied on the FCC’s DSRC channelization, channel size, and use restriction rules in developing and testing DSRC equipment and applications. The magnitude of this program cannot be ignored, and the challenges faced by the private and public sectors in reaching this point should not be trivialized to suit the short-term interests of providers of non-safety-related services. 

It is axiomatic that, given the multiplicity of public and private stakeholders involved, uniform standards pertaining to road safety communications are difficult to push forward. Despite this fact, we are on the verge of a new generation of safety communications applications that holds great promise to save thousands of lives each year and increase the efficiency of our traffic management system. Given this occasion to refresh the record, we welcome the opportunity to remind the Commission that maintaining interference protection for the entire 5.9 GHz DSRC band was always the intention of Congress and should remain the focus of the Commission in this proceeding, particularly in light of the years of significant investment, research, and development. 

As discussed more fully below, we respectfully submit that sharing of the 5.9 GHz DSRC band with unlicensed devices should be permitted only if it can be shown that such sharing will not interfere with DSRC’s ability to provide timely and reliable safety communications. As of the date of this submission, it has not been definitively shown that any of the proposed sharing methods described in the Public Notice – “detect and avoid,” “re-channelization,” some combination or hybrid of the two, or some other method – is technically capable of preventing interference to DSRC if the 5.9 GHz band is opened up to unlicensed devices. However, of the sharing approaches being considered, the one that holds the most promise is the “detect and avoid” approach. 

The “detect and avoid” method is the superior choice for preventing interference to DSRC. It is also the least disruptive to DSRC and the legitimate investment-backed expectations of its public and private sector proponents, while at the same time providing meaningful 5.9 GHz band access for unlicensed devices. As explained more fully below, this is because “detect and avoid” aims to prevent interference to DSRC operations by avoiding use of the 5.9 GHz band when DSRC operations are present in a way that requires no changes to the FCC’s rules, past orders, and statements regarding the incumbent and primary DSRC service. 

Were the Commission to adopt the “re-channelization” approach, the United States Department of Transportation automakers would have to discard decades of costly research and go back to the drawing board to redesign DSRC to be compatible with a re-channelized band, thereby delaying the deployment of applications and equipment that have great potential to improve road safety and provide other important benefits. Indeed, based on current evidence, “re-channelization” would likely require a redesign of DSRC equipment and applications, additional significant, expensive and time-consuming testing, as well as modifications of widely accepted industry standards – all of which would come at significant cost and unreasonably delay the roll-out of DSRC. Moreover, if all DSRC safety-related applications are forced into the upper three DSRC-exclusive channels, as the “re-channelization approach” envisions, many potentially life-saving applications could be lost or greatly reduced. 


1 Amendment of Parts 2 and 90 of the Commission’s Rules to Allocate the 5.850-5925 GHz Band to the Mobile Service for Dedicated Short Range Communications of Intelligent Transportation Services, Report and Order, 14 FCC Rcd 18221 (1999).

2 Amendment of Parts 2 and 90 of the Commission’s Rules to Allocate the 5.850-5925 GHz Band to the Mobile Service for Dedicated Short Range Communications of Intelligent Transportation Services, Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, 13 FCC Rcd 14321 ¶ 7 (1998).

3 Amendment of the Commission’s Rules Regarding Dedicated Short-Range Communication Services in the 5.850- 5.925 GHz Band (5.9 GHz Band) et al., Report and Order, 19 FCC Rcd 2458 ¶¶ 5, 11-15 (2004) (“5.9 GHz Report and Order”).

4 Id. ¶ 14.

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