EDITORIAL by Claus Hetting, Wi-Fi NOW CEO & Chairman
Last week – on May 19 – the government of Canada officially announced that it will release the full 1.2 GHz of spectrum in the 6 GHz band to Wi-Fi. Canada becomes the world’s first country to allow all three (LPI, VLP, and standard power) device classes to operate in 6 GHz. Conversely, Europe (CEPT) still has done nothing even to begin studying the prospect of releasing the upper part of the 6 GHz band.
The USA. Brazil. Costa Rica. Peru. And now also Canada. Nations across the America’s recognise the value of releasing the full 6 GHz band to Wi-Fi. They believe Wi-Fi is key to unlocking the full potential of the connected digital economy. Last week the government of Canada’s ISED (the department of Innovation, Science, and Economic Development) made their announcement.
Not only are the Canadians releasing the full 6 GHz band, they’re doing with a flourish and with big ambitions. They’re even outpacing their US neighbours: Canada is allowing Wi-Fi to operate outdoors at standard power in the “5925 to 6875 megahertz band with a maximum equivalent isotropically radiated power of 36 decibel-milliwatts,” the decision states, with AFC required.
This puts Canada exactly 100 MHz ahead of the US in outdoor Wi-Fi spectrum availability since the US does not allow outdoor standard power operation for Wi-Fi in the U-NII 6 band between between 6425 and 6525 MHz. This also gives Canada the overall global lead in availability of unlicensed mid-band spectrum outdoors. Meanwhile ISED points out that Canada is seeking harmonisation with the US version of AFC (for more about the principles of AFC read here).
ISEDs decision also allows low power indoor (LPI) operation in the full band – as expected and as in the US – as well as both indoor and outdoor so-called VLP (Very Low Power) operation. In both cases ISED is mandating the use of listen-before-talk protocols, which are standard for Wi-Fi technology. The US has as yet not made a final decision on VLP regulation.
Finally here is another first by the canucks: Canada becomes the first country in the world to permit 6 GHz operation for all three device classes, meaning LPI, standard power, and VLP.
Europe falls further behind
Meanwhile Europe is prepping the release of 480 MHz of spectrum in the lower 6 GHz band. Sources expect the decision to be announced within a few weeks. Sources also say that the German government expects to implement the EC’s 6 GHz decision during third quarter this year while other EU member states will be on similar time schedules. This suggests that Wi-Fi 6E technology could be made available to European consumers towards the end of this year or in early 2022. This of course is all well and good.
But as the Americas press ahead, unlicensed regulation in Europe arguably continues to disappoint. A spectrum batch of 480 MHz is important. But it is also a far cry from what could have been: A 1.2 GHz swath of pristine Wi-Fi spectrum (at the very least for low power indoor). As a consequence Europe is falling behind. And the knock-on consequences of that could be dire for Europe’s connected future.
European regulators are – for the time being – slated to do absolutely nothing about the upper 6 GHz band until possibly after the WRC-23 (the ITU’s World Radio Conference in 2023). In essence the do-nothing decision has been made because the mobile industry is lobbying regulators for access to the top of the 6 GHz band. In actuality – as we have concluded before – trying to allocate the top of the 6 GHz band to licensed wide-area mobile services is a ten year road to nowhere.
The top 6 GHz band is not free, which means it needs to be vacated. Vacating the band is practically impossible because there is no vacant spectrum into which to move incumbents. In other words: Europe is waiting for something that simply will not happen inside of a decade if ever. And as Europe waits, Europe is falling further behind. The world of Wi-Fi – at least for now – belongs to Asia and the Americas.
We urgently appeal to the European (CEPT) regulators immediately to establish a work item aimed at studying the applicability of the upper 6 GHz band to RLAN (Wi-Fi) spectrum sharing or risk never catching up to the rest of the world in availability of low-cost, highly spectrum-efficient, Wi-Fi-based connectivity.