EDITORIAL by Claus Hetting, Wi-Fi NOW CEO & Chairman
Wi-Fi is the workhorse of the digital economy everywhere. The drive for EMEA to release the full 1.2 GHz of 6 GHz band should begin immediately lest most of the region wants to play second fiddle to the Americas and parts of Asia. Only 2 weeks ago, Saudi Arabia showed the way. There’s a huge difference between releasing some – usually 480 MHz – of 6 GHz band to unlicensed and releasing the full 1.2 GHz of 6 GHz spectrum.
Very soon consumers and businesses in the US, Brazil, Korea and even – as of two weeks ago – Saudi Arabia – will experience what it means to live in a hyper-productive, super-connected world with an abundance of instantaneously responsive apps and devices at your fingertips. In Europe we will soon get a taste of it, too. But in most countries in EMEA, it will be just that – a taste of what could have been.
That is because the EU (CEPT region) has for now decided to release only the lower 480 MHz of 6 GHz band to unlicensed use and not the full 1.2 GHz of band as in the US, Brazil, and Korea. This of course is still a significant step up in connectivity capacity for the region. But it is a far cry from the real thing. There can be no doubt that unless EMEA steps up and immediately begins the process to study and eventually release the remainder of the 6 GHz band to Wi-Fi, the region as a whole will fall behind in digitalisation, productivity, innovation, and socio-economic beneficial impact.
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At Wi-Fi NOW we believe only right thing to do is the following: Only five out of 48 CEPT member states are required to provide resources for the opening of a new ‘ECC work item’ to study whether or not the upper 6 GHz band is suitable for unlicensed use including Wi-Fi. In addition the Working Group or Plenary should agree that this is a suitable subject. We believe this step must be taken immediately. There is no reason to wait for the ITU’s WRC-23 (World Radio Conference in 2023) to have ended.
Plenty of reasons to start – and no real reasons to delay
In reality there are few if any technical reasons why the full 6 GHz band should not be released at least to indoor use in most EMEA countries. We know from extensive work by the FCC and others that indoor low power Wi-Fi is safe from interfering with incumbent uses of the band (typically point-to-point microwave links and some satellite). We also know that for the same band to be vacated and incumbent users moved in order to be used by licensed 5G-type wide-area services (IMT) will be practically impossible.
What the FCC, Brazil, Korea, Saudi Arabia and others have shown us is that regulators in these countries understand and recognize the value of spectrum sharing. Here’s the overarching principle: When you allow Wi-Fi to operate on the same band as incumbent users – for example indoors – you are extracting immense additional value from a scarce resource simply by allowing low power unlicensed operation. It is highly unlikely that any mobile technology would be able to share with incumbent users.
Here are our five big reasons why the process to release the full 6 GHz band among EMEA countries (including CEPT and others) should begin immediately:
- EMEA risks falling behind in digital productivity and innovation compared to rest of world
- Known technical roadblocks for low power indoor (LPI) Wi-Fi in most EMEA countries are few or none
- Wi-Fi data rates will soon not be able match those provided over cable or fibre (10 Gbps plus)
- 320 MHz channels are coming with Wi-Fi 7 – and they will need the full 6 GHz band
- The huge positive socio-economic impact of Wi-Fi is undisputed anywhere in the world
So let’s get cracking. Now is the perfect time.