Lawmakers introduce bill to open up 5.9 GHz band for Wi-Fi use

Four House lawmakers joined together to introduce legislation that would direct the FCC to conduct tests within the 5.9 GHz band to see if more can be opened up for unlicensed Wi-Fi without interfering with current users. 

Cable companies have been eager for the FCC to open up more of the 5 GHz band to Wi-Fi use. However, they could run into opposition from car makers and the auto industry at large because part of the band has been dedicated to safety and transportation applications, something the House bill acknowledges. The bill would also create a study to examine the barriers to Wi-Fi deployment in low-income areas. The House bill is a companion bill to one introduced in June by Sens. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Cory Booker (D-N.J.).

"From personal communication to transportation, healthcare and beyond, wireless technologies are changing and improving our lives," Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) said in a statement. "The Wi-Fi Innovation Act will make available the spectrum necessary to support the best new inventions and the jobs and prosperity these new discoveries will foster."

Issa introduced the bill along with Reps. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.), Bob Latta (R-Ohio) and Doris Matsui (D-Calif.).

The lower portion of the 5 GHz band is where much of the attention around Wi-Fi has been directed recently. Time Warner Cable (NYSE: TWC) is seeking two waivers from the FCC which reveal the MSO is extremely eager to make use of the 100 MHz of 5 GHz U-NII-1 band spectrum that the commission voted in March to open up for broad, unlicensed Wi-Fi use.

In March the FCC eliminated a rule that had prohibited outdoor Wi-Fi operations in the 5 GHz U-NII-1 band and also increased allowable power levels in the band. The commission's order allows the use, under certain conditions, of existing Wi-Fi equipment designed to operate in the commonly used U-NII-3 band (5.725-5.825 MHz) in the newly opened U-NII-1 band (5150-5250 MHz.)

The Senate legislation and the new House bill focus on the upper portion of the 5 GHz band. Rubio's bill would require the FCC to "provide additional unlicensed spectrum in the 5850–5925 MHz band under technical rules suitable for the widespread commercial development of unlicensed operations in the band." However, the FCC has allocated that 75 MHz swatch for cars to talk to other cars and cars to talk to infrastructure using a technology known as dedicated short range communications.

The Senate bill would require the FCC to seek comment on "interference-mitigation techniques and technologies, and potential rechannelization, that would accommodate both incumbent licensees, including Dedicated Short Range Communications Services licensees, and widespread commercial unlicensed operations in the 5850–5925 MHz band."

Carmakers worry that more unlicensed operations will create interference that threatens nascent vehicle-to-vehicle operations and crash-avoidance systems, while MSOs argue that two can coexist.

"While we support efforts to make better use of the nation's airwaves and recognize the cable industry's interest in gaining access to the 5.9 GHz band," said Intelligent Transportation Society of America President Scott Belcher," "I cannot think of a more appropriate, innovative and important use of spectrum than saving tens of thousands of lives each year and reducing the nearly $1 trillion cost of crashes and congestion to American families and our nation's economy."

Belcher pointed out that after the Senate bill was introduced, Department of Transportation Assistant Secretary Gregory Winfree had testified that the department had "serious concerns about any spectrum sharing that prevents or delays access to the desired channel, or otherwise preempts the safety applications." He also said that the DoT was "unaware of any existing or proposed technical solution which guarantees interference free operation of the DSRC safety critical applications while allowing Wi-Fi enabled devices to share the 5.9 GHz spectrum."

For more:
- see this Multichannel News article
- see this The Hill article

Related Articles:
Time Warner Cable anxious to exploit expanded 5 GHz access for 'community Wi-Fi'
Rubio introduces legislation to free up federal spectrum for commercial use
FCC opens up 100 MHz of spectrum in 5 GHz band for unlicensed Wi-Fi
Comcast, NCTA cheer FCC 5 GHz Wi-Fi order

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