The Federal Communications Commission is reviewing how radio spectrum used for wireless communications is allocated, and the 5.9 GHz frequency set aside for vehicle safety applications could be a casualty in the process.
For the last several months, the FCC, led by Chairman Ajit Pai, has set in motion plans to free up spectrum for unlicensed usage, meaning industries and technologists will be able to utilize connectivity without prior approval.
Experts say a boom in applications for low-power connectivity and demand for Internet access in rural areas could lead the agency to re-evaluate the auto industry's claim to spectrum that enables wireless vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure technology.
In recent years, the industry has grappled with pursuing dedicated short-range communication, known as DSRC, or cellular-based connectivity. But both need access to the radio spectrum for vehicle safety services.
For the FCC, mobile phone data and rural Internet services are "a higher priority than protecting spectrum for safety applications," said Roger Lanctot, an analyst with Strategy Analytics. The spectrum-sharing "decision the FCC has to make will impact both cellular and DSRC."