The Federal Communications Commission announced today a potentially significant milestone for Wi-Fi, with plans for a vote on April 23 on a proposal to open the 6 GHz band for unlicensed use of Wi-Fi. would free up more than 1200 MHz of additional bandwidth for next-generation Wi-Fi 6E devices with antennas and chipsets capable of handling the additional spectrum.
“To respond to this increase in Wi-Fi demand, the FCC aims to increase the supply of Wi-Fi spectrum with our most daring initiative to date: making the entire 6 GHz band available for use without license, “says the FCC announcement. “By doing so, we would effectively increase the amount of spectrum available for Wi-Fi by almost a factor of five. It would be a huge benefit to consumers and innovators across the country. This would be another step towards increasing the capacity of our country networks. And that would help further advance our leadership in next generation wireless technologies, including 5G. “
With more than twice as much bandwidth as the 5 GHz band used by Wi-Fi devices today, the 6 GHz band can accommodate up to seven 160 MHz channels at a time. Latency is also much lower in the 6 GHz band, as there is no older generation Wi-Fi device operating in this spectrum to slow things down. This gives the 6 GHz band the potential to serve as an exclusive multi-channel expressway for Wi-Fi devices equipped to take advantage of it, all using, the latest, fastest and most efficient version of Wi-Fi.
The announcement of a vote to open the 6 GHz band for unlicensed Wi-Fi use comes months after FCC president Ajit Pai expressed support for the move.
“This band is currently populated with microwave services that are used to support public services, public safety and wireless links,” said Pai in September 2019. “But studies have shown that sharing this band with unlicensed operations is doable and can put massive amounts of new spectrum in the hands of consumers. “
The Wi-Fi industry has also reported strong support for the move. In January, the Wi-Fi Alliance announcedfor devices equipped to operate in this 6 GHz spectrum. Broadcom quickly followed suit with for things like and and expects manufacturers to act quickly to integrate these chips into new devices in the coming months.
“We expect the first set of devices to hit the market in the second half of this year,” said Vijay Nagarajan, vice president of marketing for Broadcom wireless communications and Ddvision connectivity. “You will see a whole series of devices, both on the infrastructure side and on the client side, and much more in a much more accelerated way in 2021.”
“The Wi-Fi Alliance and its members are ready to deliver new 6 GHz use cases and urge the Commission to support the president’s proposal,” the industry group said in a statement. Qualcomm has also signaled its willingness to jump into waters at 6 GHz.
“Qualcomm fully supports the FCC’s plan to allocate the 6 GHz band for unlicensed advanced operations at its meeting on April 23,” said Dean Brenner, executive vice president of spectrum strategy and technology policy . “In February, we introduced a full suite of Wi Fi 6E products ready to start using this new spectrum band. “
“This is clearly one of the most important wireless announcements in a long time,” said Bruno Cendón, director of wireless technologies for Facebook. tweeted, adding that the 6 GHz band will be a “booster” for AR / VR applications.
Eric McLaughlin, vice president of the client IT group and general manager of the wireless solutions group at Intel, has agreed that we will see new Wi-Fi 6E devices by the end of 2020, and notes that some in the industry have been preparing for the Age of 6 GHz for years.
“Intel, Broadcom and other industry leaders launched a risk call almost two years ago to start developing and spending millions of dollars to prepare products,” said McLaughlin.
Apple also supported this decision. “We welcome the FCC’s decision to open the 6 GHz band to Wi-Fi and other uses,” the company said in a statement. “It paves the way for the next generation of Wi-Fi networks and will help us create new, innovative product experiences for our customers.” “
Much of the work that has been done has been to demonstrate that the use of unlicensed Wi-Fi would not interfere with the small amount of traffic existing on the 6 GHz band – things like emergency broadcasts and microwave transmissions.
“What they’re talking about is creating a whole new group for Wi-Fi,” said Broadcom director of government affairs Chris Szymanski. “It has never been done before. And so it’s really one of the most studied procedures that I’ve seen, I mean, thousands of pages of technical studies. It was important for the FCC to do it right. “
Ultimately, McLaughlin cites the demonstrated potential for the 6 GHz band to have a widespread impact on the quality of our connections as the key factor that has helped the movement gain momentum within the FCC.
“There is no one who does not use Wi-Fi in any form today,” said McLaughlin. “This is one of the reasons why we are so behind this. It’s not just a product issue for us, it’s for everyone to benefit from, and it’s a great use for these types of assets. “
You can find the full FCC announcement here.