The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) recently announced it adopted rules to make 1,200 megahertz of spectrum in the 6 GHz band available for unlicensed use. The new rules will lay the foundation for Wi-Fi 6, the next generation of Wi-Fi, and expand the Internet of Things (IoT). Wi-Fi 6 is expected to be more than two-and-a-half times faster than the current standard and will offer better performance for customers in the United States. Additionally, opening the 6 GHz band for unlicensed use will increase the amount of spectrum available for Wi-Fi by almost five times and help improve connectivity in rural areas.
Low-power operations will be authorized to operate the full 1,200 megahertz, while standard-power devices will be able to operate within 850 megahertz in the 6 GHz band. An automated frequency coordinated system will prevent standard power access points from operating where they could cause interference to incumbent services such as the microwave services used to support utilities, public safety and wireless backhaul.
“In a very real sense, Wi-Fi is the fabric that binds together all our digital devices,” FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said in a statement. “By one estimate, the economic value created by Wi-Fi in the United States is projected to double by 2023—reaching nearly $1 trillion. To realize that potential, we need faster, stronger Wi-Fi networks. In order to fully take advantage of the benefits of Wi-Fi 6, we need to make more mid-band spectrum available for unlicensed use. It’s been a long, long time since we did that—and consumers deserve it.
“So today, we take a bold step to increase the supply of unlicensed spectrum: we’re making the entire 6 GHz band—a massive 1,200 megahertz test bed for innovators and innovation—available for unlicensed use. This will be a huge benefit to consumers and innovators across the nation.”
Wi-Fi 6 could boost connectivity for everyday devices
At the time of the announcement, the Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking was looking for a comment on a proposal that would allow very low-power devices to operate across the 6 GHz band to support high data rate applications including high-performance, wearable, augmented reality and virtual reality devices. The notice also inquired about increasing the power that low-power indoor access points can operate at.
The unlicensed devices that employ Wi-Fi have become critical for providing low-cost wireless connectivity in numerous products that American consumers use. With large pieces of 6 GHz spectrum available for unlicensed use, the FCC foresees new technologies and services delivering new devices and applications to consumers. The Commission also believes 6 GHz being available for unlicensed use will advance its goal of making broadband connectivity available across the U.S.
“(This) is a fantastic day for unlicensed services and the millions of Americans who use them,” FCC Commissioner Mike O’Reilly said in a statement. “This allocation for unlicensed services will accelerate, rather than compete with, the American effort to deploy nationwide 5G advanced wireless services. In sum, 5G will happen faster and more widely with our action here. (This) action is also very timely, as the COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated the importance of our Wi-Fi systems in keeping those in isolation connected to the outside world.
“This technology is right now permitting Americans everywhere to communicate with their loved ones, continue to attend school, work remotely, keep businesses up and running, order groceries and necessities, support their favorite local restaurants, and allow life to continue with as much normalcy as possible during this extremely difficult time.”