The Road to Gigabit Wi-Fi

Can we Share the 5.9 GHz ‘Car Band’?

The auto and high-tech industries are on a collision course over more than the future of driverless cars: A more immediate battle is being waged over access to the public airwaves, sparked by a FCC proposal to pave the road for super-fast Wi-Fi by allowing unlicensed devices to share the large but mostly-unused Intelligent Transportation Services (ITS) band at 5.9 GHz.

A key concern is auto safety. The Department of Transportation has tentatively decided it will mandate the implementation of vehicle-to-vehicle communication in all new cars using a wireless technology that operates on the 5.9 GHz ITS band. Although this safety signaling technology (DSRC) will use only a portion of the band – and take 20-to-30 years to fully implement – auto companies want priority use of the entire 75 megahertz of spectrum for a host of other wireless applications and services.

Wi-Fi already carries more than 60% of all mobile device data traffic, making wireless Internet access far more available, fast and affordable. But as unlicensed bands grow more congested and users demand more high-bandwidth apps, such as video chat and streaming, opening large tracts of unlicensed spectrum 5.9 GHz is key to creating the “wider pipe” required for gigabit Wi-Fi networks.

Keynoting this event, a bipartisan duo of FCC Commissioners – Jessica Rosenworcel and Michael O’Rielly – will talk about the importance and prospects of sharing the band. High-tech equipment companies Qualcomm and Cisco will describe their competing proposals. And New America’s Open Technology Institute will release and describe a major report that recommends a ‘win-win’ resolution.

The event also aired on C-SPAN. You can watch it here.

Follow the conversation online using #GigabitWifi and following @OTI.

Keynote Speakers:

Jessica Rosenworcel 
Commissioner, Federal Communications Commission

Michael O’Rielly 
Commissioner, Federal Communications Commission


Blair Anderson
Deputy Administrator, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)

Michael Calabrese 
Director, Wireless Future Program at New America
Author, Spectrum Silos to Gigabit Wi-Fi

Dean Brenner 
Senior Vice President—Government Affairs, Qualcomm Inc.

Mary Brown 
Senior Director—Government Affairs, Cisco

Harold Feld 
Senior Vice President, Public Knowledge

William Maguire 
Campaign Manager, WifiForward


Sarah Morris 
Senior Policy Counsel, Open Technology Institute at New America