If carmakers haven’t figured out wireless in 20 years, they never will

by Steve Blum • , , , ,

More unlicensed spectrum for WiFi and other uses will add value to the U.S. economy. That’s the argument FCC commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel is making to congress as a matter of general policy and to colleagues as opportunities to reallocate frequency assignments are evaluated.

One immediate thing the Federal Communications Commission can do – and democrat Rosenworcel as well as republicans Michael O’Rielly and Ajit Pai want to do – is to shift 75 MHz of spectrum around 5.9 GHz (5.850 GHz to 5.925 GHz, to be exact) from an unlicensed but otherwise restricted short range, transportation-related allocation to general use. The FCC is in the process of taking comments from interested parties on whether and how it should do it.

As can be expected in Washington, automotive industry lobbyists are making dire warnings about the imminent collapse of western civilisation if they lose the exclusive use of those frequencies, despite the fact that they’ve had the allocation for almost 20 years and done nothing with it.

That argument is nonsense, for three reasons. First, current plans call for retaining a smaller slice for public safety-related transportation purposes. Second, even that isn’t necessary since automakers will still be able to use the entire band, albeit on a shared basis. Third, and most importantly, the wireless ecosystem is far more complex and interdependent than it was 20 years ago. By way of example, Qualcomm recently released specs for its connected car reference platform which will support a mind-numbing array of wireless and networking technologies…

…including Qualcomm® Snapdragon™ X12 and X5 LTE modems, quad-constellation Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) and 2D/3D Dead Reckoning (DR) location solutions, Qualcomm® VIVE™ Wi-Fi® technology, Dedicated Short Range Communications (DSRC) for V2X, Bluetooth®, Bluetooth® Low Energy and broadcast capabilities such as analog and digital tuner support using software-defined radio via Qualcomm® tuneX™ chips. In addition, the platform features in-vehicle networking technologies such as Gigabit (OABR) Ethernet with Automotive Audio Bus (A2B) and Controller Area Network (CAN) interfaces.

Translation: nobody needs another obsolete-on-release proprietary wireless technology from carmakers. The sooner this 75 MHz is repurposed, the better for everyone.