Claus Hetting, Wi-Fi NOW CEO & Chairman
On Thursday April 23 the Federal Communications Commission signed into law 1.2 GHz of new operating spectrum for Wi-Fi with a vote of 5-0. The decision – which has no historical precedent – sets the stage for a tsunami of growth and opportunity in Wi-Fi and unlicensed wireless.
In a courageous and historically unprecedented act of global regulatory leadership, the FCC on Thursday April 23 signed into law new regulation releasing 1.2 GHz of new spectrum to Wi-Fi and other unlicensed use in the 6 GHz band. The landmark decision – which will no doubt resonate across the globe and decades into the future – passed by a vote of five to zero.
The decision is the result of more than three years of intense deliberations and painstaking work by the FCC and industry partners on qualifying and defining the new regulation and rules required. With the new rules, Wi-Fi connectivity for consumers and businesses in the US will receive a huge boost in speed and capacity, while incumbent users of the band will be sufficiently protected.
The decision nearly triples the amount of spectrum available for Wi-Fi and allows so-called ‘Low Power Indoor’ (LPI) operation right across the 6 GHz range of frequencies. The extreme width of the band means there will be space for a total of seven 160 MHz channels. A single 160 MHz channel will be able to deliver an unprecedented speed of 2.4 Gbps to a mobile device with a latency as low as 2 milliseconds, says Vijay Nagarajan, VP Mobile Connectivity Division at Broadcom. That is typically five times more than what we experience today, Broadcom says.
The new spectrum will in years to come enable multi-gigabit Wi-Fi speeds delivered to each room in the house and include an ‘information superhighway’ wireless backbone for homes, said Charles Cheevers, CTO of Home Networks at CommScope, at a Wi-Fi NOW Special Event on 6 GHz held last Friday. Most industry experts predict that 6 GHz Wi-Fi to begin with will be used mostly to boost meshing and backbone capability. New 6 GHz Wi-Fi products – including possibly new 6 GHz Wi-Fi phones – could hit the markets as early as during fall of this year, sources say.
Enterprise wireless networks will also be largely unrecognisable in the near future given the enormous boost in capacity and speed. According to Chuck Lukaszewski, VP of Wireless Strategy and Standards at HPE/Aruba, “80 is the new 20” – referring here to the four times wider 80 MHz channel that will become standard practice in 6 GHz Wi-Fi networks. This also means that average enterprise Wi-Fi speeds will be boosted to more than 1 Gbps (to for example a mobile device).
Meanwhile wireless ISPs all over the US will also benefit immensely from the new spectrum. The new regulation allows outdoor operation of ‘standard power’ Wi-Fi (or other unlicensed technologies) when controlled by a so-called AFC function. AFC is a database lookup scheme designed to protect incumbent users of the band by authorising standard power Wi-Fi APs to operate in a given location only if such operation does not interfere with current uses. Standard power operations in the 6 GHz band using AFC are expected to kick off some time within the next 6 to 12 months, sources say.
At Wi-Fi NOW we believe that releasing 6 GHz to Wi-Fi is nothing less than a paradigm shift in wireless. For more about the decision and its impact, don’t miss the Wi-Fi NOW Special Event on 6 GHz Wi-Fi recording available here.