A battle over the wireless spectrum is taking place in Washington and it’s pitting automakers against some cable and tech groups.
Specifically, it’s a battle over the unlicensed 5.9 GHz spectrum. Automakers and transit groups are urging the White House not to open a portion of it reserved for connected vehicles in the future. But some cable and tech groups want access to it now because they say we’re running out of spectrum space to run all of our connected devices.
Thursday, more than 50 automakers, state transportation agencies and other groups urged the White House and other federal policymakers to stay the course. In a letter, auto trade groups representing nearly the entire auto industry, including Toyota, Ford, General Motors, Volkswagen and Honda argued the spectrum needs to stay reserved for connected vehicles.
“One of the most – if not the most – significant advances in vehicle safety is now coming into existence. We urge you to stay the course and complete the action your administration has undertaken to improve the safety of drivers and passengers on America’s roadways,” said the letter, signed by the auto and auto parts trade groups as well as the Michigan, California and Arizona state transportation departments and the National Safety Council and National Sheriffs Association.
It’s in response to a letter sent to the White House last week from a cable industry trade group and some tech companies including Qualcomm. It warned Washington of “skyrocketing connected device use” and called “the spectrum resources that power our devices are perilously insufficient.”
The letter called for speedy action saying, “We must act now to find more unlicensed spectrum.”
Here’s some background. In 1999, the Federal Communications Commission allocated 75 megahertz of spectrum in the 5.9 GHz band for highway safety. However, critics say the technology hasn’t progressed much beyond the testing phase. FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, U.S. Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker and Foxx agreed in January to conduct testing on whether the spectrum can be shared with wireless devices.