AASHTO Journal: ‘Smart’ Transportation Groups Urge Obama to Protect Dedicated 5.9 GHz Band
More than 50 organizations involved in developing "smart" transportation safety systems, such as vehicle-to-vehicle communications and vehicle-to-pedestrian transmissions, urged President Obama to protect a portion of the dedicated 5.9 GHz band of radio spectrum against recent calls by some companies to share it for Wi-Fi use.
The backers of intelligent transportation systems told Obama in a May 5 letter that they are mounting various programs – in Michigan, California, New York, Florida and Wyoming – using the dedicated short-range communications or DSRC systems to improve roadway safety and test the applications.
"Last week, you received a letter from the cable industry and additional stakeholders suggesting that the transportation sector refuses to share the 5.9 GHz band used for connected vehicle technology with Wi-Fi," they wrote. "Nothing could be further from the truth. The transportation sector has been actively engaged with the Wi-Fi industry to determine the best method for robustly sharing the band while maintaining the integrity and reliability" of previously permitted DSRC systems.
Signers included the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, Intelligent Transportation Society of America, American Association of State and Highway Transportation Officials, American Highway Users Alliance, Institute of Transportation Engineers, several state departments of transportation and various vehicle makers, health groups and law enforcement agencies.
They were responding to reported communications industry efforts to have Obama open the reserved spectrum, to alleviate what communications groups said is a"dangerously congested" wireless signals space that is too crowded to support many business or critical functions.
Those communications interests, which included Google, the National Cable and Telecommunications Association, Dell, Qualcomm and other companies, reportedly argued that while other communications spectrum is heavily used, the 5.9 GHz band is "essentially unutilized" and is the "best unlicensed spectrum opportunity" to provide Internet access.
Law360 reported that while 75 megahertz of the 5.9 GHZ band was set aside for ITS use in 1999, the communications providers told Obama that as of this year "ITS still has not made meaningful use of the band" and so both industries should share that spectrum.
ITS America, AASHTO and the other smart transportation groups, however, told the president that "we support spectrum sharing in areas where it is technically feasible and will preserve both life-saving DSRC technology and ensure the protection of the existing fixed satellite service operations in the 5.9 GHz band. In fact, the transportation and satellite industries have already successfully completed a sharing regime in this band reflecting our mutual commitment to operate our respective services on a non-interfering basis."
The ITS coalition noted that the Federal Communications Commission has been meeting with industry stakeholders about the bandwidth issues and working with various federal agencies toward a solution. They said the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is expected to soon propose a formal rulemaking on DSRC technology to be installed in passenger cars.
But they said with the new efforts of communications groups to open up the dedicated spectrum, the administration is "now being asked to delay action and revamp the DSRC rules and ecosystem."
The transportation groups warned that "changing the DSRC rules and ecosystem at this late stage would be an enormous setback for highway safety and delay the deployment of DSRC, thereby significantly limiting the potential of this technology to reduce injuries and fatalities on our roads."
They said more than 90 percent of highway deaths are caused by driver error, which could be sharply reduced by smart technology systems now being developed.
"Those asking for delay seek to reconfigure the 5.9 GHz DSRC band in a way that would impair safety-critical applications and jeopardize their public benefits," the ITS groups said. "This would sweep away more than a decade of research and development, as well as delay for perhaps another decade DSRC's life saving benefits."