Nov 21, 2019

FCC will free auto airwaves for WiFi

Ajit Pai. Photo: Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call

FCC chairman Ajit Pai offered a path forward Wednesday for the cable industry to gain access to auto airwaves for WiFi after a long-running spectrum battle with automakers.

Yes, but: The move will pit the FCC against the Department of Transportation, which wants to see these airwaves fully dedicated to auto safety communications.

The big picture: Car companies and cable providers have been feuding over a swath of spectrum known as the 5.9 GHz band that was set aside 20 years ago for vehicle safety communications but never widely used for that purpose.

Driving the news: Pai's proposal, to be voted on at the commission's Dec. 12 meeting, would allocate the lower 45 megahertz of the band for unlicensed use such as WiFi, while setting aside up to 30 megahertz for vehicle safety technology.

What they're saying: Despite Pai's plans, a DOT spokesperson said all 75 megahertz of spectrum in the "safety band" should be preserved for transportation safety.

  • The Intelligent Transportation Society of America was more blunt, accusing the FCC of trading safety for more connectivity. "It comes down to priorities — we can save and protect people’s lives, or we can ensure it's easier to place online orders from our cars," ITS America Shailen Bhatt said.
  • But Pai's proposal was cheered by cable companies, Public Knowledge and the 5G Automotive Association, which backs the cellular-vehicle-to-everything technology that Pai’s plan would accommodate.

Democratic FCC commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, a longtime proponent of opening these airwaves for WiFi, said, "Opening this band for WiFi could add up to $100 billion to our economy. This is long overdue."

Go deeper: FCC's Pai picks public auction for 5G spectrum

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Pai proposes opening auto airwaves for WiFi

Ajit Pai. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images.

FCC chairman Ajit Pai offered a path forward Wednesday for the cable industry to gain access to airwaves for WiFi in a long-running spectrum battle with automakers.

The big picture: Car companies and cable providers have been feuding over a swath of spectrum that was set aside 20 years ago for vehicle safety communications but never widely used for that purpose.

Go deeperArrowNov 20, 2019

FCC votes unanimously to open auto airwaves for WiFi

FCC chairman Ajit Pai and commissioners testify before Congress, Dec. 5. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images.

The Federal Communications Commission voted unanimously Thursday to take a swath of airwaves long set aside for auto safety and open it up for WiFi and other uses.

The big picture: The FCC's proposal comes over the objections of the Department of Transportation. It wanted to preserve the 5.9 GHz band for car-to-car communications aimed at preventing crashes and eventually managing traffic once self-driving and semi-autonomous vehicles hit the roads.

Go deeperArrowDec 12, 2019

Pai: FCC will auction coveted 5G spectrum

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai will direct his agency to auction sought-after airwaves for 5G services estimated to be worth up to $60 billion.

Why it matters: The path the FCC chooses will affect how quickly 5G services can be deployed using the airwaves, which are key for both wireless capacity and coverage, as well as how much of the money raised will go to the government.

Go deeperArrowNov 18, 2019