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December 19, 2019
Brattle Economists Respond to the FCC's Proposed Partial Reallocation of the 5.9 GHz Band

Brattle Principal Coleman Bazelon, Senior Associate Lucrezio Figurelli, and Senior Consultant Paroma Sanyal have published a commentary on the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC’s) recent proposal to reallocate part of the 5.9 GHz band for Wi-Fi and unlicensed use.


The recent surge in demand for data brought on by the evolution of 5G networks and the Internet of Things (IoT) has caused the FCC to rethink how the 5.9 GHz band for Wi-Fi is allocated. An October 1999 allocation dedicated 75 MHz of spectrum for intelligent transportation systems (ITS) uses, such as car-to-car communication and transportation-safety functions. However, this has not been used as expected.

To make better use of this resource, the FCC recently proposed opening up 45 MHz of the 5.9 GHz band exclusively for Wi-Fi and unlicensed operations, while keeping 30 MHz reserved for ITS use. Given that this could balance the need for vehicle safety with the growing demand for data bandwidth, the opportunity cost for sharing a portion of the 5.9 GHz band for Wi-Fi and unlicensed use is low.

The full commentary, “Spectrum in a Shared Economy: The 5.9 GHz Band,” can be found below.