FCC Adopts New Spectrum Rules Rules, Aiming to Improve Wi-Fi For Wi-Fi and Automotive Safety

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced earlier this week that it adopted new rules for the 5.850 – 5.925 GHz spectrum band in order to make new spectrum available for unlicensed uses, including Wi-Fi and technology to allow vehicles to communicate, improving road safety.

In particular, the FCC stated that “the new band plan designates the lower 45 megahertz (5.850 – 5.895 GHz) for unlicensed uses and the upper 30 megahertz (5.895 – 5.925 GHz) for enhanced automotive safety using Cellular Vehicle-to-Everything (C-V2X) technology.”

The FCC emphasized that increasing spectrum availability for unlicensed operations is crucial to meet spectrum and connectivity needs and demands in the United States. The FCC said during the COVID-19 pandemic, “Wi-Fi connectivity has grown in importance as Americans use it for connecting to videoconferencing, telehealth, and other critical applications and services.” The FCC claimed that Wi-Fi’s economic value in the U.S. is projected to reach nearly $1 trillion by 2023.

The FCC contended that the impact of the new 45 MHz available for unlicensed use “will be further amplified by the fact that it is adjacent to an existing Wi-Fi band which, when combined…will support cutting-edge broadband applications.” Additionally, the agency said the new technical rules immediately allow for full-power indoor unlicensed operations will provide the potential for “outdoor unlicensed use on a coordinated basis under certain circumstances.”

The other 30 MHz will be used by Intelligent Transportation System (ITS) services. The announcement designated C-V2X as the technological standard for vehicle communications and safety-related transportation. “C-V2X uses cellular protocols to provide direct communications between vehicles and obstacles like other vehicles, cyclists, pedestrians, and road workers, and to receive information from roadside transmitters.”

The FCC has sought public comment for the ITS transition to C-V2X, including advice on timeline and technical or operational parameters, as well as if the FCC should allocate more spectrum for ITS services in the future. The FCC will also modify 5.9 GHz band ITS licenses.

“Today, we put an end to two decades of waste and inefficient use of the valuable 5.9 GHz band,” Commissioner Mike O’Rielly said. “Going forward, this spectrum will not only advance the deployment of state-of-the-art automobile safety systems, but also those cutting-edge technologies that rely on unlicensed spectrum.”

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai and Commissioners O’Rielly and Carr approved the action and Commissioners Rosenworcel and Starks concurred with the action.