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FCC Issues More C-V2X Waivers as Final Rule Proves Elusive

The FCC approved Thursday waiver requests from 11 additional parties seeking permission to launch early deployments of cellular vehicle-to-everything (C-V2X) technology in the 5.895-5.925 GHz band. The FCC has yet to finalize rules for C-V2X in the band -- an item pending since November 2020, when the commission approved an order opening 45 MHz of the band for Wi-Fi, while allocating 30 MHz C-V2X technology (see 2011180043).

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Industry officials said they’re not sure why the FCC has yet to issue a more general order and instead continues to issue waivers (see 2307170049). The agency declined comment Thursday. The band had previously been allocated for dedicated short-range communications (DSRC), a technology that had been slow to develop.

The latest waivers went to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation; the Maine DOT; the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development; the Battelle Memorial Institute; Continental Automotive Systems; the Illinois State Toll Highway Authority; the Contra Costa, California, Transportation Authority; Prince George’s County, Maryland; IT-Telecom; Nissan Technical Center North America; and Ettifos.

The waivers carry the same conditions as earlier waivers, said the decision by the FCC Office of Engineering and Technology and the Public Safety and Wireless bureaus. “We find that … the underlying purpose of the rules governing [intelligent transportation system] operations would not be served by denying these requests and thereby delaying or precluding C-V2X operations in the upper 30 megahertz of the 5.9 GHz band,” the FCC said in a docket 19-138 filing: “We find that a waiver in this case will facilitate early C-V2X deployment as the Commission envisioned” in the 2020 order.

The agency approved a year ago a joint waiver request by Audi of America, Ford, Jaguar Land Rover, the transportation departments in Utah and Virginia, Aaeon Technology, Harman International Industries, Panasonic North America and other companies allowing early C-V2X deployments (see 2304240066). In November, the FCC approved waivers for eight applicants, including the North Carolina DOT, the New York City DOT, Chattanooga, P3Mobility, Denso International and Rolling Wireless (see 2311030018).

Industry officials said they had expected by now the FCC would have completed work on a follow-up order on C-V2X rules. An agency official said in June the FCC was watching how pilots progress, which should help the agency as it finalizes rules (see 2306050070).

I'm really not sure why this item is not simply being resolved all at once, rather than piece by piece,” said Public Knowledge Senior Vice President Harold Feld. “Not sure where the blockage is, but there seems to be one,” he said.

A continued reliance on waivers raises concerns and is surprising, said Kristian Stout, director-innovation policy at the International Center for Law & Economics. The FCC’s “piecemeal strategy seems to allow for some flexibility and immediate action, which can be beneficial in terms of responding to specific needs and technological developments,” Stout emailed: “It also introduces a degree of uncertainty for all stakeholders involved.”

Addressing the issue on an ad hoc basis “could potentially lead to inconsistencies in deployment and usage standards,” which “could hamper the scalability and interoperability of technologies like C-V2X, which are crucial for their ultimate success and integration into broader transportation systems,” Stout said. The lack of a finalized framework could also deter some stakeholders “from committing to significant investments in this technology, due to regulatory uncertainty,” he said.

An ad hoc waiver system appears to be “the de facto rule for the band,” said Joe Kane, Information Technology and Innovation Foundation director-broadband and spectrum policy. The approach leaves C-V2X and unlicensed proponents in something of a limbo, but the waiver applications “can serve as a blueprint for future ones so that neither the commission nor applicants have to start from scratch every time,” he said.

Kane said the delays could reflect problems with allocating spectrum to a specific use rather than for more flexible use. “It would be great to have functional, secure intelligent transportation deployments regardless of the particular technology used, but, just as with DSRC, the administrative decision to use the band for intelligent transportation doesn't necessarily mesh with the state of current technology or most productive use of the band,” he said.