FCC Votes to Open Up 6 GHz Band for Wi-Fi

4Q 2018 | IN-5296
Over the next decade, Wi-Fi faces a number of difficult challenges. Key among them are the growing demands being placed on Wi-Fi networks, leading to increased congestion, performance limitations, and reduced quality of service (QoS). New Wi-Fi standards such as 802.11ax (Wi-Fi 6) are helping to address some of these challenges; however, there is an increasing acknowledgement that the existing unlicensed spectrum available for Wi-Fi will be insufficient in addressing the future needs of the Wi-Fi ecosystem. Last year, leading companies who are invested in the Wi-Fi ecosystem—including the likes of Broadcom, Cypress, Intel, Cisco, MediaTek, Google, Apple, and Facebook—came together to press the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) on the need for unlicensed spectrum in the 6 GHz band (i.e., 5925–7125 MHz) to be opened and utilized by Wi-Fi technologies. In anticipation of regulatory action, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) 802.11ax Task Group amended the Project Authorization Request (PAR) for 802.11ax to expand the scope of the covered frequency bands from 6 GHz to 7.125 GHz and cited the need for new operating classes to support the new gigabit-enabled channels. In June 2018, the Wi-Fi Alliance applauded the FCC’s intention to move forward with a rule on 6 GHz in the next few months, while in October 2018, the FCC voted in favor of opening up 1200 MHz of spectrum for unlicensed devices in the 6 GHz band. Alongside this development, in July 2018 the IEEE agreed to create a new Extremely High Throughput (EHT) study group for the next generation of Wi-Fi with a significant throughput increase over 802.11ax technologies. The key enabler of this increase will be the anticipated 1 GHz of additional unlicensed spectrum to allow wider 320 MHz channels and up to 16 spatial streams. Combined, these efforts will help ensure that Wi-Fi can improve its performance and grow over the next decade.

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