Full-spectrum vehicle connectivity inches closer
Automakers have finally coalesced around a plan to deploy connected-vehicle technologies using the 5.9-GHz safety spectrum band. In late April, the Alliance for Automotive Innovation (Auto Innovators) announced that it had reached a consensus on how the band will be used, making room for both C-V2X (cellular vehicle-to-everything) and DSRC (dedicated short range communication). The proposal was included in a regulatory filing with the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and in a letter to U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao. The deployment announcement is predicated on the FCC maintaining the entire 75 MHz of safety spectrum for transportation safety purposes.
The plan permits both technologies to make use of the entire band in the near-term. During the first five years, LTE C-V2X exclusively will operate in the band’s upper 20 MHz, DSRC in the lower 20 MHz, and the remaining 30 MHz will be made available on a priority basis to next-gen DSRC and advanced (5G) C-V2X applications as they are developed and deployed. After five years, a single technology will be selected to use the 5.9-GHz band going forward. That will also begin a 10-year phaseout period, during which the technology that does not prevail will phase out of its initial exclusive 20-MHz allocation in either the band’s upper or lower portion.
It followed just days after the industry announced a plan to deploy at least five million V2X radios on vehicles and roadway infrastructure within the next five years—a deployment commitment said to represent more than 50 times the number of devices on the road today.
The Intelligent Transportation Society of America (ITS America), which represents the interests of many companies on the infrastructure side of the transportation ecosystem, is supportive of the Auto Innovator’s plan. The FCC has often said the auto industry lacked consensus on how to use the safety spectrum, but Shailen Bhatt, ITS America President & CEO, said that the plan, in addition to the auto industry’s earlier buildout announcement, is one more excuse the FCC no longer has to defend its efforts to give the safety spectrum away to other commercial interests.
The FCC in a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking has proposed giving unlicensed (non-transportation) use for 45 MHz of the spectrum, leaving only 30 MHz for V2X technologies, which would not only limit spectrum available for safety applications but could render that remaining spectrum unusable due to significant interference, according to ITS America and others. In reply to the FCC’s proposal, it noted that the depth and diversity of groups opposing the FCC proposal far outweighed those that support it. Opposition came from national transportation industry associations; state departments of transportation, local governments; transit agencies; automobile OEMs; trucking companies and organizations; and various first responder, safety, and vulnerable road user associations.
Traditional and new mobility automotive suppliers have also added their voices to the conversation. NXP Semiconductors’ developed a whitepaper that the FCC proposal in its current form might not benefit the road safety of U.S. citizens and is likely to delay the introduction of V2X technology in the U.S. by more than five years. Autotalks says the Auto Innovators plan is a step in the right direction, but it believes a lack of one uniform industry standard is likely to slow deployment, so it developed a dual-mode chipset designed to toggle between DSRC and C-V2X.
The industry has gotten behind a plan to dramatically increase utilization of V2X communication band, now it’s time for the FCC to facilitate the benefits that can save lives and provide economic, environmental, and transportation efficiencies.