Cisco Systems is among a number of big tech companies that are eagerly awaiting the FCC’s vote tomorrow on a proposal to make 1,200 megahertz of spectrum available for unlicensed use in the 6 GHz band.
As part of a broad coalition that includes Google, Facebook, Apple, Broadcom, Qualcomm, Intel, Microsoft and others, Cisco has been lobbying the FCC for some time now to open up the 6 GHz band for new unlicensed services.
“It’s sort of a watershed moment for Wi-Fi,” said Jeff Campbell, vice president of Technology Policy at Cisco. “It’s been a very long time since we’ve had a big allocation of spectrum. This is going to help future-proof it for quite some time and allow it to bring enormous benefits to users,” both individuals and businesses.
Now more than ever, people are using Wi-Fi to conduct work and school from home during the COVID-19 crisis. “There’s no doubt that there’s more Wi-Fi traffic occurring right now,” he said, noting that traffic has "gone through the roof" for Cisco’s own video conferencing Webex product.
While the urgency is bigger now with everyone working from home, “I would also suggest that a lot of the things we’re learning to do now are going to lead to more and more use of the technology and drive greater Wi-Fi usage even after we’re past this crisis,” he said.
Cisco hasn’t announced anything yet, but products to support the 6 GHz band are expected to come quick as it’s next door to the 5 GHz band that Wi-Fi already uses, making it a less complex transition. Cisco’s focus is on access points and associated routing and switching.
An estimated two-thirds of all traffic on mobile devices is offloaded onto Wi-Fi and about a third is carried by cellular networks. So even though wireless carriers have lobbied for part of the 6 GHz band for licensed services, they will still see benefits of the band via Wi-Fi offload.
In its draft Report and Order (PDF), the FCC noted that it envisions unlicensed devices operating in the band to work in concert with new licensed 5G services by providing consumers’ ubiquitous connectivity to a full range of services regardless of location.