By Claus Hetting, Wi-Fi NOW CEO & Chairman
Yesterday, the Wi-Fi industry took another big leap towards ‘turbocharging’ 6 GHz Wi-Fi: Cisco, Broadcom, and Facebook announced the creation of an ‘Open AFC’ collaborative software group aimed at speeding up mass-market adoption of full power (standard power) 6 GHz Wi-Fi indoors and outdoors. The ‘Open AFC’ group is free to join and becomes part of the Facebook-lead Telecom Infra Project (TIP).
Here’s the beauty of Wi-Fi in the context of spectrum sharing: 6 GHz Wi-Fi can safely coexist with incumbent users of the band – even at full power (aka standard power). Full power 6 GHz Wi-Fi will enable a host of new outdoor and indoor use cases and is now finally – more than a year after the FCC’s 6 GHz decision – on an accelerated path to deployment thanks to a group of Wi-Fi industry leaders.
AFC enables 850 MHz of indoor & outdoor full power Wi-Fi
Here’s the background: When the FCC in April of last year released the 6 GHz band (5925 MHz – 7125 MHz) to Wi-Fi provisions were made for operation of Wi-Fi at standard power in the UNII-5 and UNII-7 bands – but only if such operation is controlled by a so-called ‘Automatic Frequency Coordination’ (AFC) function. AFC is a database lookup scheme and calculation engine allowing Wi-Fi to share the spectrum with incumbents dependent on location and in such a way that incumbent services are protected.
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With yesterday’s announcement, AFC-controlled full power Wi-Fi is now finally on the fast-track to happening in real life. Broadcom, Cisco, and Facebook have founded a collaborative software group with the aim of creating an open-source version of the required AFC system.
Longer range, better performance, & lower costs
According to Vijay Nagarajan, Vice President of Marketing, Wireless Communications & Connectivity Division at Broadcom: “AFC will turbocharge the user experience by enabling over 60 times more power for reliable, low latency, and multi-gigabit wireless broadband.” Vijay Nagarajan is in particular referring to special features of the upcoming 802.11be (future Wi-Fi 7) standard that will relate to AFC-based operation – also read more here.
Cisco is also hugely bullish on the value of full power 6 GHz Wi-Fi. “For coverage-driven Wi-Fi deployments, full power 6 GHz Wi-Fi will be enormously important, for example for enterprises and service providers, and not least to consumers. AFC-based 6 GHz Wi-Fi will also constitute a big boost to Wi-Fi performance for example in stadiums and for smart cities. For residential, MDU, and campus Wi-Fi networks, 850 MHz of pristine 6 GHz spectrum accessed at full power will usher in a new era of connectivity,” says Matt McPherson, Wireless CTO at Cisco.
Laying the groundwork for other regions to follow
Wi-Fi coverage areas will be vastly expanded per AP and so AFC-controlled Wi-Fi 6E is also expected to drive down cost of connectivity and play an important role in closing the so-called digital divide. With the US taking the lead on AFC, other countries already committed to full-band 6 GHz Wi-Fi operation – such as Canada, Brazil, South Korea, and others – may follow in due course, Cisco says. The Open AFC initiative could also be instrumental in laying the groundwork for other regions and countries – such as the EU and the UK – to choose a full power Wi-Fi spectrum strategy for parts of the 6 GHz band.
According to the press release – read here – Facebook has already developed a proof-of-concept AFC system, which will now be contributed to the TIP community. For more about Open AFC including how to join the initiative, see this link.