The FCC will consider a proposal that would require automakers to use the C-V2X protocol for car-to-car communications. The move stands as a swipe at the competing DSRC protocol.
The development at the FCC stands as a win for companies like Qualcomm and Ford that have loudly and repeatedly pushed for a C-V2X mandate from the US government. And it could have significant implications for companies like NXP and Toyota -- the world's largest car company -- that have been pushing for DSRC.
But, in explaining his proposal on the topic, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai left himself some wiggle room. He said the agency would also consider a proposal to support DSRC in the 5.9GHz band alongside C-V2X.
"I'm proposing that we seek public input on whether to allocate the remaining 10MHz of spectrum in the 59GHz band for DSRC or C-V2X. Advocates of each will be able to make their case," he said today at an event in Washington, DC, hosted by Citizens Against Government Waste, New America's Open Technology Institute and WifiForward.
Importantly, Pai also proposed setting aside fully 45MHz of the 5.9GHz band for unlicensed use, which would mainly be for WiFi. That represents a major win for the WiFi industry, which has been clamoring for more unlicensed spectrum.
Rethinking the 5.9GHz band
Pai's proposal -- which will require approval by the full, five-member FCC before it can be implemented -- would end more than a decade of uncertainty surrounding the 5.9GHz band. In 1999, roughly 75MHz in the band was allocated for vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communications using the DSRC standard, which leverages WiFi technologies. The goal was to get cars to warn each other about accidents and other hazards.
Fast forward to today however and just a few automakers support DSRC and little real-world progress has been made in the US using the 5.9GHz band.
The situation created an opening for Qualcomm and other companies, which for several years have been pushing C-V2X as an alternative to DSRC. They argue that C-V2X -- which initially used 4G LTE technologies but can also use 5G -- would be more effective for V2V communications. Ford and a number of other automotive companies have jumped aboard the C-V2X bandwagon.
And today, Pai handed the C-V2X industry a major win with his proposal to allocate 20MHz of the 5.9GHz band specifically for C-V2X. However, automakers may need to support a variety of communication technologies considering DSRC has made progress in Europe and Asia.