OnQ Blog

The future is now — C-V2X needs immediate access to 5.9 GHz Spectrum in the U.S. to improve roadway safety

Oct 30, 2020

Qualcomm products mentioned within this post are offered by Qualcomm Technologies, Inc. and/or its subsidiaries.

Qualcomm Technologies has been working for years on a new, advanced wireless automotive safety technology called Cellular Vehicle to Everything — or C-V2X for short. This technology enables vehicles to communicate with vehicles (V2V); vehicle to roadway infrastructure (V2I; e.g., traffic signals, signs, light poles, etc.) on highways, at intersections, around curves, at night and during other low-visibility conditions; and vehicle to pedestrian (V2P). C-V2X can substantially improve roadway safety.

But there is a problem: spectrum. Like all wireless technologies, C-V2X needs spectrum — the airwaves — for communications. There is spectrum set aside in the U.S. and globally for automotive safety. It’s the 5.9 GHz band. But in the U.S., in 1999, that spectrum was allocated to an outdated technology called DSRC. Under the FCC’s rules, only DSRC can use the spectrum, but today there are virtually no DSRC-equipped cars.

Fortunately, this week, the FCC circulated a draft ruling which would reassign a portion (30 MHz) of the 5.9 GHz band to C-V2X. Qualcomm Technologies appreciates and applauds this aspect of the draft ruling. Spectrum is a precious national asset, and it’s wrong to continue an assignment to a technology that isn’t being used. So far, so good. However, the draft ruling doesn’t assign the spectrum to C-V2X immediately. Rather, the draft ruling proposes a lengthy, indefinite “transition period” within which C-V2X still cannot use the spectrum. C-V2X is ready to go and needs the spectrum now, not in several years.

Why? Automakers like Ford are raring to sell cars with C-V2X. State and local transportation agencies are ready to install C-V2X on roadsides. Qualcomm Technologies has the chips to go into the cars and roadside units (RSUs). C-V2X is ready for prime time, and it will substantially improve roadway safety for Americans. C-V2X needs the 30 MHz of 5.9 GHz spectrum now so that potential safety measures are not at risk.

C-V2X is a superior technology to deliver V2X safety that naturally fits into the telematics plans of many OEMs. In short, C-V2X is a better radio that facilitates applications delivered through several decades of research and standardization work in wireless technologies. A hallmark of C-V2X is its direct communication mode, also called sidelink, which allows vehicles and RSUs to communicate directly with each other without relying on the cellular network. Hence, basic safety messages can be transmitted and received without worry over cellular coverage and with very low latency that is key to roadway safety alerts.

Proof is on the road

Given Qualcomm Technologies’ long history of innovation and leadership in wireless communication and pioneering efforts across global technical standard bodies, we have commercial solutions for a broad range of vehicle applications. So we know the ins and outs of C-V2X, which was first introduced in 3GPP Release 14. It is a superior and modern technology designed to meet real road conditions.

Industry-wide tests

The automotive ecosystem has been working persistently to conduct elaborate tests on C-V2X performance. Almost every automaker in the world has tested C-V2X. And it is not surprising that in less than five years, the 5G Automotive Association (5GAA), representing the industry that supports C-V2X, has grown from its eight founding members to a multi-industry global organization with more than 140 companies, including some of the most recognized leaders in automotive and telecommunications industries. Also,

  • Qualcomm Technologies worked with Ford and 5GAA to conduct extensive and objective tests comparing DSRC and C-V2X. Under well-documented test conditions, which were conducted under a variety of environmental conditions, both ideal and adversarial, C-V2X clearly demonstrated superior performance and reliability in comparison to DSRC.
  • The Crash Avoidance Metrics Partnership (CAMP) LLC, convened a consortium with Qualcomm Incorporated and OEMs such as GM, Ford, Nissan, and Hyundai. They performed a host of naturalistic V2V tests to include intricately designed large-scale  performance tests under congested conditions. C-V2X once again demonstrated superior performance in a host of measurements. These translate to enhanced V2V safety. And yes, the results did not surprise us since these performance characteristics were part of our design requirements when creating C-V2X.

Interoperability performance standards and certifications

The SAE J3161/1 standard that specifies the interoperability minimum performance is in its final steps to ratification, and SAE J3161/1A which describes how to measure C-V2X performance at a vehicle level is well underway. These industry consensus standards adopt the best from basic safety applications that were well-examined for many years. The primary difference is that C-V2X delivers those applications using a better radio technology. Hence, end-to-end implementations have been proven by many global trials to culminate with the initial deployment in the state of Virginia that builds novel applications on top of these old building blocks. Thus, C-V2X is being actively used in the U.S. right now.

It is important to note that C-V2X can deliver on many of the ITS applications long envisioned by the ITS community but without the inefficient and undeployable two-radio multi-channel operation needed by DSRC to deliver V2X applications. SAE J3161, which is under ballot, describes exactly how many of the C-V2X V2V and V2I operations can be done with one radio. In simple terms, given 30 MHz of C-V2X, we can deploy C-V2X and add more applications to address needs of multiple vehicle types.

Expanding on this one radio deployment paradigm, we embrace public safety as an absolute priority. 5GAA proposes, and SAE J3161/1 is aligned with, the concept that high-power emergency services can use a single C-V2X radio to communicate with the infrastructure (with, for traffic signal pre-emption) and to other cars (as a virtual siren). This is the very same radio that would deliver basic safety messages and other safety data to all other vehicles. This method is unique to C-V2X and is baked into standards.

In addition:

V2I communication and roadside units

V2I delivered with C-V2X also is ready for deployment. Specifically:

China update

China is vigorously pursuing the Internet of Vehicles (IoV) concept to interconnect its roads, vehicles, and road users with the cloud and fleet management systems. C-V2X plays a core role in China’s vision of the IoV. Already 13 Chinese auto companies are planning to deploy C-V2X-enabled cars beginning in the first half of 2021, allowing China to enter the fast lane in the global race toward developing modern and sustainable cities and transportation networks. Action by the FCC to allow C-V2X deployments to begin would enable the U.S. to also take this fast lane to safety.

Roadmaps to C-V2X

Qualcomm Technologies has been working closely with the entire ecosystem — automakers, road operators, regulators, and government bodies worldwide to drive global C-V2X momentum. We announced our first C-V2X commercial solution, the Qualcomm 9150 C-V2X chipset in 2017; commercial deployment in cars is expected by 2021. Several Qualcomm Technologies’ products have been ready for commercialization in C-V2X roadside units since early 2019, including Qualcomm 9150 and newly launched Qualcomm Snapdragon SA2150 platform for RSUs. The recently announced Snapdragon SA415M and upcoming Snapdragon SA515M will combine both LTE and 5G networks for express use in autos. On top of these chipset offerings, partners from vehicle OEMs to RSU vendors have been working to deploy C-V2X. Those products are manifold and await the green light that only the FCC can give.


For all of these reasons, we believe that the FCC should go a step further and assign the 30 MHz to C-V2X now.


Qualcomm Snapdragon and Qualcomm 9150 C-V2X are products of Qualcomm Technologies, Inc. and/or its subsidiaries.






Opinions expressed in the content posted here are the personal opinions of the original authors, and do not necessarily reflect those of Qualcomm Incorporated or its subsidiaries ("Qualcomm"). Qualcomm products mentioned within this post are offered by Qualcomm Technologies, Inc. and/or its subsidiaries. The content is provided for informational purposes only and is not meant to be an endorsement or representation by Qualcomm or any other party. This site may also provide links or references to non-Qualcomm sites and resources. Qualcomm makes no representations, warranties, or other commitments whatsoever about any non-Qualcomm sites or third-party resources that may be referenced, accessible from, or linked to this site.

Dean Brenner

Senior Vice President, Spectrum Strategy and Technology Policy

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