Qualcomm, Nokia, Samsung clash with Wi-Fi Alliance over 5.9 GHz for C-V2X

Qualcomm, Nokia and Samsung are among those supporting a request by the 5G Automotive Association (5GAA) for permission to conduct Cellular Vehicle-to-Everything (C-V2X) in the upper portion of the 5.9 GHz band, something the Wi-Fi Alliance and other groups want the FCC to reject.

The 5GAA filed a waiver request back in November saying the FCC’s current rules for the 5.9 GHz band—adopted well before the development of C-V2X—restrict intelligent transportation system (ITS) operations to those that use the dedicated short-range communications (DSRC) standard. The deadline for reply comments, which had been extended to accommodate the International Consumer Electronics Show (CES), was last week.

Those in support of the waiver say C-V2X can be a viable and in some cases preferable technology to DSRC, while those who oppose the 5GAA’s move say it threatens not only DSRC but also Wi-Fi’s ability to make wider use of the 5 GHz band. A separate evaluation of the 5.9 GHz band is currently underway at the FCC.

“The Commission’s reevaluation of this band for potential use by Unlicensed National Information Infrastructure (U-NII) devices like Wi-Fi is ongoing, and must be completed before any new uses of this spectrum are considered,” the Wi-Fi Alliance told the commission (PDF). “Moreover, the Petition masquerades as a waiver request when it is really a petition for rulemaking.”

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Others in opposition include the Open Technology Institute at New America, American Library Association, Benton Foundation, Consumer Federation of America, Public Knowledge, and X-Lab—collectively referred to as public interest organizations (PIOs)—as well as WISPA, the Wireless Internet Service Providers Association (PDF).

“By proposing that the top 20 megahertz be set aside exclusively for one particular ITS standard (C-V2X), 5GAA effectively seeks to hijack what is probably at this time the most plausible outcome of the pending 5.9 GHz NPRM,” the PIOs told the commission. “The Petition also contradicts what 5GAA has proposed for Europe, with both technologies coexisting on just 30 megahertz. The Public Interest Organizations strongly support the NCTA and WISPA requests for an immediate FNPRM to consider what allocation of the 5.9 GHz band best serves the public interest going forward. 5GAA is requesting an overhaul of the band’s allocation and rules, which is properly addressed in the broader context of a FNPRM in the ongoing 5.9 GHz proceeding.”

Ericsson made known its support for the waiver last month (PDF), as did T-Mobile (PDF).

RELATED: Qualcomm undeterred on road to C-V2X

Qualcomm’s support (PDF) for the waiver is not the least bit surprising given its advocacy efforts for C-V2X. The chipset supplier has been working with major vehicle manufacturers and roadway equipment manufacturers to integrate C-V2X technology into production vehicles and roadside units.

Qualcomm noted that multiple major vehicle manufacturers, such as BMW, Ford and Jaguar Land Rover, are imploring the FCC to grant the petition as soon as possible because they want to deploy C-V2X technology. Other major vehicle manufacturers, such as Daimler and Honda, are actively assessing the technology and note that the current regulatory uncertainty is preventing them from deploying it in the U.S. “As the record of this proceeding currently stands, even before all the comments and replies have been filed, a significant segment of the auto industry is asking the FCC to promptly grant the 5GAA Petition to allow commercial deployment of C-V2X,” Qualcomm wrote (PDF).

Nokia said it supports 5GAA’s waiver petition because the commission’s current rules restrict ITS operations in the 5.9 GHz band to those that use the DSRC standard, and thus a waiver of the rules is necessary to achieve the benefits of LTE and 5G in that spectrum band. “With the recent release of LTE capabilities that allow for direct V2V communications, C-V2X is poised for near-term deployment and offers key safety benefits,” Nokia told the FCC (PDF). “Not only will C-V2X offer immediate superior performance over DSRC, but it has an upgrade path from LTE to 5G.”

Samsung, which acquired automotive technology company Harman International two years ago, said (PDF) the waiver request doesn’t preclude the continued operations of DSRC technology, but it would help update the regulatory framework governing the 5.9 GHz band to better represent the realities of the V2X marketplace and give interested stakeholders in the United States the flexibility to invest and innovate in a technology that’s being adopted around the world. Harman showed a demo of a vehicle communicating with a motorcycle using its telematics platform with C-V2X capabilities at CES 2019.

Interestingly, General Motors noted (PDF) that DSRC is presently used by GM in its vehicles having V2V capability—it’s the only fully developed solution. But it said C-V2X holds some promise as a potential alternative technological solution, and GM believes C-V2X should be provided temporary access to a portion of the 5.9 GHz band to allow further development and testing to demonstrate whether C-V2X can work effectively in field conditions at scale.

In 1999, the FCC allocated 75 megahertz of spectrum in the 5.85-5.925 GHz band for DSRC systems to improve the safety of vehicles on U.S. roads. In 2013, the commission, recognizing a need for more capacity for unlicensed services in the 5 GHz band, initiated a proceeding to make more spectrum available. The Wi-Fi Alliance argues that the FCC should complete its current assessment of the band before it considers new uses.