Above: FCC Commissioners with Chairman Ajit Pai in the middle.
By Claus Hetting, Wi-Fi NOW CEO & Chairman
Yesterday in Washington DC the FCC voted unanimously in favour of beginning the process towards releasing 45 MHz of new spectrum in the 5.9 GHz band to Wi-Fi. The initiative is now precisely on schedule according to statements made last month by FCC Chairman Ajit Pai. The new spectrum is expected to deliver a significant boost to 5 GHz Wi-Fi performance including more capacity, higher speeds, and lower latency.
Next year is shaping up to be pivotal and profoundly consequential for the future of Wi-Fi: Not only is a final ruling on huge amounts of new Wi-Fi spectrum in the 6 GHz expected to happen within the next 6 months or so, the FCC is now also making good on its promise of new regulation for the 5.9 GHz band – including carving out an all-important 45 MHz of new spectrum for Wi-Fi.
Yesterday in Washington DC the FCC voted unanimously in favour of beginning the process towards reallocating the 5.9 GHz band to Wi-Fi and other uses. The FCC released a so-called ‘NPRM’ (Notice of Proposed Rule Making) to kick off the proceedings with an outline of suggested new rules that include releasing the lower 45 MHz of the band to Wi-Fi (unlicensed use) while the upper 30 MHz would be used for transportation and vehicle safety. The full NPRM document can be found here.
A new 160 MHz DFS-free Wi-Fi channel
A mere 45 MHz of new Wi-Fi spectrum may not sound like much but actually – as Chairman Pai pointed out last month – this small slice of band ‘punches above its weight’ because it will enable high-performance 160 MHz channel operation in the 5 GHz band. And it gets better: The new 160 GHz channel formed by 45 MHz of new spectrum plus contiguous spectrum below will be DFS-free.
Assuming the NPRM is adopted, this would mean unfettered access to the band under current 5 GHz Wi-Fi rules as well as an efficient path to implementation of Wi-Fi in this new band by technology vendors. Meanwhile a final ruling according to the current proposal would likely sound the death knell for its incumbent, namely DSRC-based vehicle-to-vehicle communications.
Said Chris Szymanski, Director Product Marketing & Government Affairs at Broadcom: “This key mid-band spectrum offers a contiguous 160 MHz channel, which is essential for AR/VR, wearables and other future innovations. Unlicensed in the 5.9 GHz band, in concert with the 6 GHz band, could create a one-two punch to knock out the spectrum shortage and unleash the full power of Wi-Fi 6.”
Broadcom also says it expects the final 5.9 GHz ruling to happen towards the end of next year. Read the full FCC statement on 5.9 GHz band and yesterday’s vote here.