By Claus Hetting, Wi-Fi NOW CEO & Chairman
Facebook is taking giant strides to make Wi-Fi less costly and more ubiquitous with the Facebook Connectivity program, which during the past year has been ramping up across the world. We asked Chris Marra – Facebook’s Product Manager for Wi-Fi Products – about his take on 6 GHz Wi-Fi.
Wi-Fi NOW: How do you view the importance of 6 GHz Wi-Fi, meaning for Facebook, for connectivity in general, and so on?
Chris Marra: 6 GHz is also essential for the future of Wi-Fi. Adding 1200 MHz of spectrum in the 6 GHz band will spur massive investment in unlicensed equipment and products, both to bring more people online and expand into new use cases. More spectrum helps support the growing number of dense public deployments, brings new opportunities for neutral host networks, and hopefully we’ll see more creative uses in the future as we have with in-home and outdoor Wi-Fi meshing in the past few years. Unlicensed equipment has always been a huge democratiser of high-throughput connectivity, and we have yet to see what products and uses will emerge out of the bandwidth and latency improvements enabled by seven new ultra wide channels.
Finally, you can’t speak about 6 GHz Wi-Fi without mentioning Wi-Fi 6. Wi-Fi 6 lets devices share spectrum better with its introduction of OFDMA and improvements to MU-MIMO. Doing so in clean channels in the 6 GHz band will be a noticeable improvement for folks suffering from interference in unplanned networks. Especially for the growing number of devices at home, the clean slate of Wi-Fi 6 running on 6 GHz will be welcome.
Wi-Fi NOW: What segments do you think will be most impacted by 6 GHz Wi-Fi and why? Will any new use cases and/or technologies emerge from 6 GHz Wi-Fi in your view?
Chris Marra: The FCC’s new rules allow for low power indoor use, which is a great first step for the industry. With that regulatory question answered, the U.S. is setting a template for device vendors, access point manufacturers, network operators, and other regulators to start thinking about the imminent arrival of 6 GHz. It’ll take time to kickstart device availability, but hopefully we start to see products rolling out soon and more countries opening up similar access.
The FCC is also proposing to allow very low power portable use, both indoors and outdoors. Getting the rules right here will allow for all sorts of new portable augmented and virtual reality use cases and devices. High bandwidth and ultra low latency unlocks new possibilities for remote collaboration, interactive experiences, and the device to device communications needed for those. We might also see meshing applications that utilise both the 5 and 6 GHz bands to provide a low cost way to cover large spaces, indoor and outdoors.
Wi-Fi NOW: How do you see the impact (or interdependency) of 6 GHz Wi-Fi and 5G?
Chris Marra: Both have important roles to play in meeting consumer demand for data in the future as we continue to see people using more and more for video and augmented reality uses on their phones. Having both 5G and Wi-Fi be a part of an operator’s toolkit for meeting density needs, especially indoors, will help keep up with this growth. Cisco’s VNI report predicts that more than 70 percent of 5G traffic will be offloaded on to Wi-Fi, and the 160 MHz channels allocated here allow it to offer an equivalent experience to 5G with more flexibility for other network uses.
Chris Marra (left) leads Product Management for Wi-Fi products at Facebook Connectivity, including Express Wi-Fi and Facebook Wi-Fi. Express Wi-Fi is a platform for service providers to manage and monetize large scale Wi-Fi networks, used by ISPs, mobile carriers, OEMs, and satellite operators in over a dozen countries to provide sustainable internet service to consumers. Facebook Wi-Fi helps small and medium businesses easily provide internet service and reach their customers with their brand. He also focuses on other products to make Wi-Fi more useful and economical for service providers and businesses.