By Claus Hetting, Wi-Fi NOW CEO & Chairman
Saudi Arabia’s telecom regulator CITC last week successfully demonstrated how the database lookup scheme known as AFC – Automatic Frequency Coordination – can be used for Wi-Fi spectrum management. CITC used an AFC provided by Federated Wireless and four access points provided by Aruba Networks to deliver nearly 6 Gbps of aggregate throughput to four client Wi-Fi devices operating in the 6 GHz band.
Last year Saudi Arabia became the first country in EMEA (otherwise know as ‘ITU Region 1’) to release the full 6 GHz band to Wi-Fi. Then last week Saudi Arabia’s telecom regulator CITC delivered another first – in this case a world first: A live public demonstration of how an AFC can be used to manage spectrum and authorise standard power Wi-Fi operation while protecting incumbent users of the 6 GHz band.
The demonstration event – which took place at the CITC’s headquarters in Riyadh and was attended by service providers, government, industry, and academia – is significant because Saudi Arabia’s ambitious approach to making 6 GHz Wi-Fi available may be taken as a lead for the rest of the region and other countries in EMEA to follow. CITC said that the demo is a step towards the realisation of its strategy to become a ‘data-driven digital regulator’.
“This strategy aims to leverage intelligent database spectrum management systems to improve spectrum utilisation at large and particularly in the 6 GHz band, where standard power WiFi 6E use through AFC has the potential to enable a wide range of industrial and commercial use-cases and significantly expand WiFi 6E coverage, capacity, and adoption across the Kingdom,” the CITC said.
The demonstration – which used commercially available Wi-Fi 6E APs and clients – showed how four Wi-Fi APs were able to query the AFC to obtain permission to operate at standard power in the 6 GHz band. The four APs then delivered an aggregate throughput exceeding 6 Gbps to four client devices, each operating on a 160 MHz channel. The event also marks the first time the Wi-Fi Alliance’s system-to-device AFC protocol interface has been demonstrated in public.
The demonstration was run using Wi-Fi 6E-capable Aruba AP-655 access points and a live AFC provided by Federated Wireless, one of about seven companies expected to be licensed by the FCC to become certified AFC operators in the US possibly by the end of this year. As in the real case, the AFC utilised the CITC’s actual licensing database for the purposes of the demonstration.
In October of last year Aruba Networks announced that they are partnering with Federated Wireless for AFC services. “We believe the enterprise Wi-Fi market will be best served by bundling AFC services into the overall solution,” said Chuck Lukaszewski, VP and Wireless CTO at Aruba, A Hewlett-Packard Enterprise company. Chuck Lukaszewski also pointed out that GPS-capable Wi-Fi 6E access points – such as the AP-655 – are already available and shipping today.
Determining the accurate location of the AP is a prerequisite for AFC operation. Aruba recently announced the release of a strongly improved method for APs to self-locate – even when located deep indoors – using a combination of GPS and so-called ‘Fine Timing Measurement’ methods. For more on this also see our interview with Aruba’s Stuart Strickland, HPE Fellow, on Wi-Fi NOW TV here.