Panasonic argues for preserving entire 5.9 GHz band for auto safety services

Connected vehicle warning devices would help drivers avoid serious lane change crashes. (U.S. Department of Transportation)

Citing its experience in providing both dedicated short-range communications (DSRC) and cellular vehicle-to-everything (C-V2X) technologies, Panasonic is urging the FCC to preserve the entire 5.9 GHz band for auto safety services.

“Panasonic and other industry stakeholders need the full 5.9 GHz allocation of unimpaired spectrum for these technologies to be deployed to their fullest potential,” the company wrote in a Nov. 28 filing (PDF). “These revolutionary technologies are coming online now. Reducing or eliminating the 5.9 GHz spectrum allocation would risk chilling innovation and stranding investment, which would deny safety benefits to consumers and harm the public interest.”

The comments come in response to a public notice the FCC put out in October that asked for input on how it proceeds with the 5.9 GHz band. The deadline for comments was Nov. 28, with a reply comment deadline of Dec. 13.

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The agency has been involved in efforts to determine whether unlicensed devices could share the 5850-5925 MHz frequency band with DSRC systems. In 2016, a three-phase test plan was announced, with the FCC reporting in October on the first phase, in which it found prototype devices reliably detected DSRC signals.

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

A number of members of the auto industry submitted comments in recent days saying they don’t think any sharing should be considered in the 5.9 GHz band between DSRC and non-DSRC devices. Another group of commenters, including NCTA The Internet & Television Association, is urging the government to take a “fresh look” at the 5.9 GHz band and designate all or a substantial portion of the band for unlicensed use. They argue (PDF) DSRC is a failed technology, stuck in the pilot-project stage even after 20 years of government subsidy.

In its public notice, the FCC said it recognized 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 C-V2X and the limited deployment of DSRC. The commission invited comment on how these factors should affect its evaluation of the test results, its three-phase test plan and its proceeding on unlicensed use in the 5.9 GHz band.

Panasonic said it agrees with the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration that preserving the 5.9 GHz band for transportation communications is essential to public safety. It urged the commission to finish all three phases of research before making any decisions about spectrum reallocation. Testing thus far has taken place in laboratory conditions, not in a real-world environment, and tests need to take place in different weather conditions and roadway environments, the company said.

It also told the commission not to heed NCTA’s suggestion that the FCC take a “fresh look” at the 5.9 GHz band and DSRC, nor should it give credence to NCTA’s claim that DSRC has been a “failure” when Panasonic and other industry stakeholders continue on a path to a national deployment.