FCC Designates Portion of 5.9 GHz Band for Unlicensed Use

The Federal Communications Commission (“FCC” or “Commission”) has adopted a First Report and Order (“Order”) in which it repurposes 45-megahertz (5.850-5.895 GHz) of spectrum in the 5.9 GHz band for unlicensed use and designates the upper 30 megahertz of the band (5.895-5.925 GHz) for Intelligent Transportation System (“ITS”) use. The Order gives unlicensed operators immediate access to indoor operations across the 5.850-5.895 GHz band and requires ITS licensees to discontinue use of 5.850-5.895 GHz band one year from the Order’s effective date. Additionally, the FCC will allow some outdoor operations in certain locations through the Special Temporary Authority (“STA”) process for operations that will not cause harmful interference to incumbent operations.

In addition, all ITS radio service standard technology will be required to transition from Dedicated Short-Range Communications (“DSRC”) to cellular vehicle to everything (“C-V2X”) technology and licensees will be required to certify they have discontinued operations in 5.850-5.895 GHz segment of the band. Any licensee that does not transition will have its license terminated automatically. The FCC also released a Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (“FNPRM”), addressing the upper 30 megahertz designated for C-V2X use, and an Order of Proposed Modification, proposing modifications for all ITS licensees to clear use of the lower 45 megahertz of the 5.9 GHz band.

While the Order only authorizes indoor use of the 5.9 GHz band, the FNPRM proposes rules for eventual outdoor use, establishing power and emission limits along with other technical rules. The Commission also seeks comment on whether it should allocate additional spectrum for ITS applications in the future, whether the establishment of exclusion zones are the best way to ensure protection from harmful interference and on using the Commission’s existing 6 GHz framework for outdoor unlicensed devices.

Interested parties may file comments 30 days after publication in the Federal Register, which has not yet occurred. Reply comments will be due 60 days after publication in the Federal Register. If you have any questions about the Order or FNPRM or are interested in filing comments please contact dee@hermanwhiteaker.com or Hilary Rosenthal at hrosenthal@hermanwhiteaker.com.