RAND Report Evaluates Possible Economic Benefits of Using 5.9 GHz Band for WiFi

For Release

November 29, 2018

Opening up the 5.9 GHz frequency band for WiFi use could result in significant economic benefits, both in terms of contribution to GDP and in economic surplus, according to a new RAND report.

Wireless communications—particularly those enabled by WiFi—play an important role in generating economic prosperity and opportunity, yet there are few empirically driven estimates on how WiFi contributes to the economy.

RAND researchers filled this gap by estimating the potential economic value of the 5.9 GHz frequency band—the portion of the spectrum that was allocated by the Federal Communications Commission for short-range vehicle-to-vehicle communications in 1999. This year, the band is being reconsidered for WiFi use.

Opening up the band for WiFi could result in an annual potential contribution to U.S. gross domestic product ranging from $59.8 billion to $105.8 billion, according to the report. Such use could also provide economic gains in the form of consumer and producer surplus of $82.2 billion to $189.9 billion. The study notes that other factors not directly measured in this report could impact these estimates; these include privacy regulation, trade policy, fifth-generation (5g) network deployment, and technology choices associated with communications between vehicles and between vehicles and infrastructure. The study did not estimate the potential value of the use of the spectrum for the purposes for which it is currently reserved, namely, Dedicated Short-Range Communications (DSRC).

“The goal of these estimates is to help contextualize the economic importance of the entire 5 GHz unlicensed band, as it relates to current and future potential WiFi use and applications,” said Diana Carew, lead author of the report.

Nicholas Martin, Marjory Blumenthal, Philip Armour and Jesse Lastunen are the other authors of the study.

Comcast Innovation Fund sponsored the research, which was undertaken within RAND Social and Economic Well-Being, a division of RAND that seeks to actively improve the health and social and economic well-being of populations and communities throughout the world.

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