Wheeler: FCC ‘moving with dispatch’ on 5.9 GHz tests

The FCC is on a fast track, so to speak, when it comes to testing equipment in the 5.9 GHz band, but it’s not going quite as fast as some stakeholders would like.

“This is something that we’re moving with dispatch on,” FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler told Sen. Gary Peters, (D-Mich.) in response to a question during a Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, hearing on FCC oversight on Thursday.

The FCC recently received equipment from five manufacturers and will immediately begin assessing characteristics, power level, interference and so on. Wheeler said the equipment arrived a little later than they had hoped but it’s there now and they’re working on it. He could not say if the FCC will meet its January 2017 target for completing testing.

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The plan is to get through the tests quickly and work with the Department of Transportation at its facilities to test in that environment and move onto a real-life environment, Wheeler said. Asked if the FCC will make all the data publicly available throughout the bench and field testing phase, Wheeler said they will conform to the spirit of that but it will depend on whether companies ask for private data to be held confidentially.

Peters, who represents the Motor City state, stressed that it’s critical that any decisions be based on science and not subjective judgments given the importance of the spectrum from a safety perspective.

In June, the FCC issued a public notice asking for comment about potential sharing solutions between Unlicensed National Information Infrastructure (U-NII) and Dedicated Short Range Communications (DSRC) operations in the 5.850-5.925 GHz (U-NII-4) band. DSRC is what is deemed for vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) and vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I) applications, although it's been years in the making. The DSRC spectrum at 5.850-5.925 GHz consists of seven 10 megahertz wide channels and a 5 megahertz segment of spectrum was reserved to accommodate future, unforeseen developments.

The auto industry and technology companies have been fighting over the spectrum. Last year, U.S. Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Cory Booker (D-NJ) reintroduced the Wi-Fi Innovation Act, legislation to expand unlicensed spectrum use by requiring the FCC to test the feasibility of opening the upper 5 GHz band to unlicensed use. At the time, Peters told the Detroit Free Press that he was encouraged the proposal would result in “vigorous, real-world testing” to make sure new vehicular technologies are not harmed by unlicensed uses.  

Near the end of the hearing, Wheeler, a graduate of Ohio State University, told Peters that he has learned that in the next couple of weeks, they will start driving autonomous cars at Ohio State University as part of the very thing they’ve been talking about – and it will be operational the last Saturday in November, when, it just so happens, the Ohio State Buckeyes take on the Michigan Wolverines.

For more:

- watch the Senate hearing

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