Wi-Fi Alliance working on recommendations for 6 GHz

nuclear plant
Wi-Fi advocates want the 6 GHz for unlicensed systems but utilities use the band for a variety of applications, including microwave support for nuclear power plants. (Pixabay)

The Wi-Fi Alliance is among the chorus of stakeholders urging the FCC to quickly release a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) that would permit use of the 5.925-7.125 GHz band, also known as the 6 GHz band, for unlicensed operations.

Wi-Fi Alliance representatives met with FCC staff on Aug. 1, noting that the alliance continues to develop recommendations for technical parameters to govern the 6 GHz band that would satisfy the twin goals of maximizing the use of the band for unlicensed devices and protecting incumbent Fixed Satellite Services (FSS) and Fixed Service (FS) operations.

Asked about the 6 GHz band during a press conference on Thursday, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said the agency has been working with staff and federal partners and it’s a top priority. He couldn’t provide a specific time frame for when the full commission would consider an item, but he indicated it will happen this year.

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Meanwhile, representatives from Apple, Broadcom, Cisco Systems, Facebook, Google, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Intel, Marvel Technology Group, Microsoft, Qualcomm and Ruckus Networks met with FCC representatives on July 31, where they presented (PDF) additional requirements to protect 6 GHz incumbent operations from harmful interference.

Citing a big need on the part of Wi-Fi and unlicensed operations, the group has been pushing the FCC to get an NPRM on the books for the 6 GHz band.

The tech companies are proposing an Automated Frequency Coordination (AFC), a mechanism that determines coordination contours for licensed systems based on applicable databases. It identifies available frequencies to avoid harmful interference and proposes a remediation process.

The companies have the support of the Center for Medical Interoperability (CMI), among others. The CMI told the FCC that the proposed framework recognizes that indoor devices and outdoor devices should be treated differently given their potential impact on existing operations.

“CMI’s members note that the amount of data, number of simultaneous sessions and diversity of devices on healthcare Wi-Fi systems is growing substantially each year and believe that the 6 GHz band is the answer to the challenge,” CMI said in an its filing (PDF).

Others are still concerned about the potential impact from interference if the FCC expands the use of the 6 GHz band to include other licensed or unlicensed operations.

The Utilities Technology Council (UTC) met with FCC staff last month and explained that utilities rely on the 6 GHz band for a variety of applications, including protective relaying, Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) systems, 911 traffic for emergency management and two-way land mobile radio services. Some of these microwave systems support communications to nuclear power plants and other utilities have 1 gigawatt power plants that are entirely dependent on their 6 GHz microwave systems for backhauling all of their communications.

Utility representatives said they relocated their microwave systems to the 6 GHz band after the commission reallocated the upper and lower 2 GHz bands in the 1990s to make way for technologies like personal communications services and mobile satellite. They tried to operate in the 2.4 GHz band but were forced to abandon that after the spectrum became too congested and interference undermined the reliability of their systems.