In the U.S., the FCC last year voted to open 1,200 megahertz of 6 GHz spectrum for unlicensed use, which is creating excitement and momentum in the Wi-Fi ecosystem.
At a free FierceWireless virtual event next week, a wide range of speakers from the Wi-Fi ecosystem will be discussing new opportunities driven by the opening up of the 6 GHz band and the readiness of Wi-Fi 6 devices.
Traditionally in the U.S., Wi-Fi has operated in the 2.4 and 5 GHz bands. The opening up of the 6 GHz band is coinciding with the 6th generation of the Wi-Fi standard. And the devices operating in this band have been designated as “Wi-Fi 6E.”
Yes, there are a lot of “6s” to keep track of.
“We believe the Wi-Fi 6 market is still in the first inning of what is likely to be a longer-tailed cycle than previous Wi-Fi iterations,” said analysts at Cowen in a recent research note.
Raghuram Rangarajan, an engineering leader at Amazon, will be kicking off Fierce Wireless’ event next week. Amazon, of course, is involved in the Wi-Fi ecosystem because of its Amazon Echo smart speakers and its Amazon Alexa virtual assistant.
Rangarajan said, “Wi-Fi 6 is focused on throughput density.” He said each user in the home now has as many as 10 connected devices. Wi-Fi 6 is focused on efficiency and improved performance across a dense network of users. Wi-Fi 6 will also deliver increased battery life for associated devices.
He noted that there are already Wi-Fi 6E devices coming on the market, such as the new Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra. And there are also some Wi-Fi 6E routers and gateways that will be available soon.
Rangarajan also said the 6 GHz band and Wi-Fi 6E devices open up new opportunities, not just for the smart home but also for industrial, enterprise and even fixed wireless access (FWA) applications.
But there are some challenges. One of them is that with Wi-Fi 6/6 GHz, “the radio waves do get attenuated more,” he said. "You can’t reach as far”
The 6 GHz band is not an empty band. It is currently populated by microwave services that are used to support utilities, public safety and wireless backhaul. “Unlicensed devices will share this spectrum with incumbent licensed services under rules crafted to protect those licensed services, stated the FCC when it announced the new rules for the 6 GHz band.
Companies such as Google and Federated Wireless have already created spectrum sharing technology for the Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) band. And while the CBRS band uses a spectrum access system (SAS) to coordinate usage on a dynamic basis, the 6 GHz band will probably use something similar.
Federated Wireless has built a prototype Automatic Frequency Controller (AFC) and shared it with the FCC for its review. The AFC could be used in the 6 GHz band to protect incumbents while allowing for new users in the spectrum.