What 6 GHz Spectrum Means for Campus Networks

Have you ever been in a rush to go somewhere, but heavy traffic slowed you down? If only a private lane was reserved for just you, you’d never have to worry about traffic again. While you’ll never get a lane to just yourself, the next best thing is using the High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lane when you can. In the world of campus Wireless Local-Area Network (WLAN) solutions, the 6 Gigahertz (GHz) spectrum is your HOV lane. Compared to the more popular 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz spectrums, the 6 GHz spectrum is far less congested. The additional capacity of 6 GHz significantly benefits Campus Area Networks (CANs), notably those enterprise campuses, education, large public venues, and the hospitality sector.

The video below provides a quick overview of some of the major benefits of 6 GHz and Wi-Fi 7 for campus networks.

What Is a Campus Network?

Campus networks are self-contained private networks providing connectivity for an organization across multiple buildings/sites with shared common policies. Unlike the networks in typical carpeted enterprises, campus networks are extremely diverse in nature, with unique indoor and outdoor connectivity requirements and high levels of complexity. Industries relying on campus networks span everything from universities and retail outlets to governmental facilities and industrial manufacturing sites. Information Technology (IT) departments in these businesses and public institutions globally recognize that wired networks are insufficient for campus connectivity needs, as they are not scalable, are unsuited to connecting thousands of devices simultaneously, and cannot support roaming or novel mobile applications. Cellular coverage, on the other hand, is too expensive for many organizations and requires new skill sets to manage the network. Therefore, Wi-Fi adoption is the best bet to keep devices connected and secure, and marks a key trend sweeping through the connectivity space.

Wi-Fi 6E Ignites the Transition to 6 GHz Spectrum

The 6 GHz band was first made available with Wi-Fi 6E, introduced in 2020. Eager to access this new spectrum and gain significant connectivity upgrades, many organizations were quick to adopt the new standard. Examples include the University of Michigan, Texas A&M University, Nebraska’s Doane University, LG South Korea, and the Chase Center in San Francisco. However, Wi-Fi 6E was merely a stepping stone standard, as it only expanded the existing Wi-Fi 6 technology (802.11ax) into the 6 GHz spectrum, but did not introduce any new features to truly harness the full potential of the new band.

Benefits of Wi-Fi 7 for Campus Networks

Wi-Fi 7 (802.11be) is the first standard built from the ground up for 6 GHz, and is designed to unlock all the possibilities associated with 6 GHz. Devices supporting the standard are just beginning to hit the market. Below is a list of some of the most notable innovations that campus networks can benefit from with Wi-Fi 7, also known as Extremely High Throughput (EHT).

  • Multi-Link Operation (MLO): Widely known as the most beneficial innovation to campus networks, MLO facilitates the simultaneous sending and receiving of data across different frequency bands and channels. Not only is MLO ideal for applications demanding ultra-low latencies, but it will also mitigate spectrum congestion, while delivering greater capacity and increased throughput.
  • Multi-Resource Unit (RU) with Preamble Puncturing: A key feature of Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax) is optimal Access Point (AP) spectrum allocation. This is done by dividing each channel into sub-channel RUs. However, Wi-Fi 7 takes this feature to the next level by allowing multiple RUs to be supported per user, as opposed to only one. This is in tandem with preamble puncturing, a feature that “punctures” the portion of a spectrum channel that is occupied. That way, the channel can be formed on either side of an incumbent.
  • 16 Stream Multi-User Multiple Input, Multiple Output (MU-MIMO): This Wi-Fi 7 feature doubles the maximum streams from 802.11ax up to 16. As a result, a single AP can communicate with a greater number of clients simultaneously via separate streams. Ultimately, this will translate to expanded Wi-Fi coverage, improved determinism, and increased throughput for each client.
  • 4096 (4K) Quadrature Amplitude Modulation (QAM): Increases the variation in the phase and amplitude of radio waves to increase data in each packet. This 4K enhancement is a jump from the 1024 QAM (1K) in 802.11ax. With 4K QAM, campus networks will experience higher data rates and better spectrum efficiency.
  • 320 Megahertz (MHz) Channels: Wi-Fi 7 will unlock channel bandwidths of 320 MHz, up from the maximum of 160 MHz for Wi-Fi 6. As shown in Table 1, the 6 GHz spectrum band is the only band able to offer a contiguous 320 MHz. This bandwidth will be essential for enabling the high throughput that many next-generation use cases may require, such as Augmented Reality (AR)/Virtual Reality (VR) applications.

When all of the above features are used, the Wi-Fi 7 standard can deliver a maximum theoretical data rate of 46.4 Gbps, as well as consistently sustained sub-10 Millisecond (ms) latencies. In the future, Time-Sensitive Networking (TSN) features will be integrated, enabling sub-1 ms latencies. These innovations brought about by Wi-Fi 7 can handle the most throughput-demanding applications on campus, such as immersive Virtual Reality (VR).

Table 1: Theoretical Number of Available Channels on Each Unlicensed Spectrum Band

(Source: ABI Research)


2.4 GHz

5 GHz

Lower 6 GHz (Camp 2)

Entire 6 GHz (Camp 1)

20 MHz





40 MHz





80 MHz





160 MHz





320 MHz





Why Additional 6 GHz Spectrum Capacity Is Needed

Campus networks are transitioning to 6 GHz at a swifter pace than past standards, which signals the dire need for improved connectivity features. Campuses seek Service Level Agreements (SLAs) for high predictability and reliability, which Wi-Fi 7 can finally provide to facilitate more complex applications. Therefore, WLAN equipment vendors and System Integrators (SIs) must leverage Wi-Fi 7 and 6 GHz spectrum to meet customer demands. To proliferate the Wi-Fi 7 market further, WLAN market players, major customers, and industry bodies should conduct campus network trials with the technology to demonstrate enhanced capabilities to the broader enterprise customer base.

While it’s well-known that Wi-Fi 7 and 6 GHz spectrum provide economic benefits due to increased productivity, spectrum availability is not geographically uniform. This is a problem that regulators must address. The United States has made the most progress in terms of 6 GHz spectrum availability, with the rest of the Americas following closely behind. ABI Research reports that the Americas is the only region with access to the entirety of the 6 GHz band. Meanwhile, Europe is restricted to the lower 6 GHz spectrum. Finally, Asia-Pacific and the Middle East & Africa offer unlicensed 6 GHz spectrum to deliver full Wi-Fi 7 functionality. The low-cost additional capacity will bring immediate boosts to economic gain, as well as economies of scale, which, in turn, will benefit the end customer with lower product costs.

To learn more about the technologies revolutionizing campus WLAN, download the whitepaper WLAN Innovations for Campus Networks.

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