FCC tests show Wi-Fi can share with DSRC in 5.9 GHz band

Wi-Fi (pixabay)
The FCC is requesting comment on how to proceed with the 5.9 GHz band. (Pixabay)

It’s close to a couple of years late by some estimations, but the FCC’s Office of Engineering and Technology (OET) released the results of tests that were conducted to see if unlicensed devices can share spectrum with Dedicated Short Range Communications (DSRC) in the 5.9 GHz band, and sure enough, tests showed prototype devices reliably detected DSRC signals.

The report was done with the cooperation of five parties—Cisco, Qualcomm, KEA Tech, Broadcom and CAV Technologies—that submitted a total of nine devices in response to a public notice for Phase I testing. Qualcomm, Cisco, KEA, Broadcom and the Department of Transportation also submitted DSRC devices to use for the tests.

About 1,450 individual tests were performed and they collected more than 1 million data points, which are summarized in the just-released report. The National Telecommunications and Information Association and DoT also were involved in the coordination of the report.

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The upshot is the prototype U-NII-4 devices were able to detect a co-channel DSRC signal and implement post detection steps as claimed by the submitters.

REPORT: NCTA, New America urge FCC to take ‘fresh look’ at 5.9 GHz band

But the OET recognizes a lot has changed since the tests were first ordered, so it’s seeking comment on a number of issues.

“We recognize there have been a number of developments since the three-phase test plan was announced in 2016—such as the introduction of new technologies for autonomous vehicles, the evolution of the Wi-Fi standards, the development of cellular vehicle-to-everything (C-V2X) technology, and the limited deployment of DSRC in discrete circumstances,” the OET said in a public notice. “We invite comment on how any of these factors or others should impact our evaluation of the test results, our three-phase test plan, or our pending proceeding on unlicensed use in the 5.9 GHz band.”

The FCC has set a comment deadline of Nov. 28 and reply date of Dec. 13, 2018.

RELATED: FCC’s Rosenworcel urges rethink on 5.9 GHz band

Just a week ago, FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel commented that the last commitment made about the tests was January 2017, which was nearly two years ago, and “we are behind,” she said during a post-FCC meeting press briefing.

Rosenworcel has been advocating for a whole new “rethink” to the 5.9 GHz band, which was designated for DSRC 20 years ago but that has made relatively little progress. Meanwhile, the need for Wi-Fi spectrum has been increasing at a dramatic rate.

“Nearly two years after the deadline for completing a three-phase test plan to determine whether auto safety and Wi-Fi can share the 5.9 GHz band, this agency is releasing the results of its lab testing,” she said in an Oct. 30 statement. “These results are long overdue. But we need to do more than just make our work public. We need to start a rulemaking to take a fresh look at this band and its real possibilities.”

Commissioner Michael O’Rielly also has long advocated for new policies for the 5.9 GHz band. “While I appreciate release of the 5.9 GHz Phase I testing data, the results are not all that surprising given the simple questions posed,” he said in a statement. “The reality is that the entire debate has gravitated away from the type of sharing regime envisioned in the testing. Instead, the Commission should move past this and initiate a rulemaking to reallocate at least 45 megahertz of the band, which is completely unused today for automobile safety.”

NCTA—the Internet & Television Association, which is urging the FCC to move forward with a new conversation about what to do with the 5.9 GHz band, said the OET's test report makes it clear that Wi-Fi can operate safely in the 5.9 GHz band.

“With this testing complete, and a congressional mandate to free up new spectrum for unlicensed uses, now is the time to move forward,” NCTA said. “Given fundamental changes in both the wireless broadband and automotive safety landscapes, the FCC should take a fresh look at how 5.9 GHz spectrum can be an important element in delivering gigabit Wi-Fi and fulfilling our nation’s agenda of delivering ubiquitous broadband to all Americans.”