South Korea and Europe Aid the Push to Use the 6 GHz Band for Unlicensed Wi-Fi Use

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4Q 2020 | IN-5965

More countries and regions, such as South Korea and Europe, are beginning to release or at least show interest in releasing the 6 GHz band for unlicensed Wi-Fi use. The increased spectrum offers more space for data, faster speeds, secure signals, improved reliability, lower latency, greater quality of service, and reduced congestion.

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South Korea Becomes the First Asian Country to Release the 6 GHz Band

NEWS


For some time, South Korea has been expected to become the first Asian country release the 6 Gigahertz (GHz) band for unlicensed indoor Wi-Fi use. The country’s Ministry of Science and ICT (MSICT) issued a proposed amendment of technical standards for public consultation in June 2020, which was endorsed by the Frequency Review Committee in October 2020. This has since been confirmed, with South Korea becoming the third country in the world and the first country in Asia to release the 6 GHz band. The MSICT made the announcement in October 2020 and confirmed that the entire 1.2 GHz of the band (i.e., 5925 Megahertz (MHz) to 7125 MHz) is to be released, much like in the United States where the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) made a similar announcement in April 2020. The only other country, so far, to have released any part of the 6 GHz band is the United Kingdom, with Ofcom having released 500 MHz of the band (5925 MHz to 6425 MHz) in July 2020.

What the 6 GHz Band Will Offer South Korea

IMPACT


The MSICT has confirmed that up to seven new 160 MHz Wi-Fi bands will be available and tests have shown that the band provides throughput of 2.1 Gigabits per Second (Gbps), 5X faster than what Wi-Fi in the country can currently provide, and 2 Milliseconds (ms) of latency. It has a number of specific use cases, applications, and benefits in mind for the 6 GHz band, such as to provide 4K and 8K Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) video for multiple users simultaneously in applications that include education, smooth Internet service without deteriorating communication performance, wireless access for multiple devices in high-density environments, super-fast low-latency wireless communication, device-to-device tethering connections indoors and outdoors (in the lower part of the band—5925 MHz to 6455 MHz), and improved connectivity in places like cafés, schools, and public transport zones.

The MSICT has confirmed that it will continuously investigate way in which to improve the conditions of the 6 GHz band, such as regular reviewing of what the band can provide, with results being regularly announced and changes to the band being made if necessary. It has also announced that it will reallocate 3.7 GHz to 4 GHz of spectrum that is currently being used for satellite communications to 5G wireless communications. South Korea also announced in August that it will be expanding free public wireless services, which it started in 2012, to an additional 41,000 locations by 2022, with the goal of supporting the increasing data demand that has been brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic. It is currently available in over 18,000 public locations.

How Europe and Others are Expected Use the 6 GHz Band

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South Korea will benefit from using the 6 GHz band for unlicensed Wi-Fi use. Along with the United States and the United Kingdom, a number of other countries and regions are also on track to release the 6 GHz band for unlicensed Wi-Fi use, or known to be investigating it, such as Europe, Brazil, and India. This represents great scalability and interest for 6 GHz Wi-Fi across a wide range of regions and all but eliminates any attempt to extend the 5G licensed spectrum to the 6 GHz band. The current state of these areas is as follows:

  • Europe is highly likely to conclude the regulatory process for the European Conference of Postal and Telecommunications Administrations (CEPT) member countries and the European Union (EU) in the coming months, allowing the lower 500 MHz of the 6 GHz band to be used for low-power indoor and very low-power Wi-Fi use. The release of the band is expected to occur in early 2021, with the Electronic Communications Committee (ECC) within the CEPT expected to approve a draft of 6 GHz regulations within the coming days and the wider ECC Plenary expected to further approve it in mid-November. Following these approvals, the European Commission (EC) will also have to approve the regulations, followed further by the Radio Spectrum Committee (RSC), which is expected to meet in early December to review and adopt the rules.
  • Brazil is expected to be one of the next countries to release the full 5925 MHz to 7125 MHz of the 6 GHz band for unlicensed Wi-Fi use, following support by the country’s regulator, Anatel.
  • India has not started the regulatory process for opening up the 6 GHz band for unlicensed Wi-Fi use; however, there have been discussions by major players in the market who are aware of the opportunities that it will provide and are investigating its possibilities. Organizations like the International Telecommunication Union-Asia Pacific Telecommunity (ITU-APT) and the Broadband India Forum are pushing for the Indian government to release the 6 GHz band for low-power indoor Wi-Fi use and the lower part of the band for low-power outdoor use.

Post-COVID-19, many service providers are also expected to introduce more work-from-home services worldwide, designed to incentivize upgrades to Wi-Fi 6E networks as the 6 GHz band is continued to be released, to provide improved connectivity experiences. This will help to further promote the use of the 6 GHz band in countries and regions that have yet to investigate opening up the band or that are in the very early stages. These countries and regions should consider opening up part or all of the 6 GHz band for unlicensed indoor Wi-Fi use, as its increased spectrum provides more space for data, increased speed, secure signal, improved reliability, lower latency, greater quality of service, and reduced congestion. The first Wi-Fi 6E devices are expected to come to the market during 4Q 2020, in particular, for smartphones, but also Personal Computers (PCs), portable PCs, and tablets.

Despite the continuing efforts to bring the 6 GHz band to Wi-Fi, there have been suggestions that it could be a solution for 5G, which is thought to require more spectrum to support data-rich connections. The 6 GHz band could help here, and also provide connectivity to a greater number of rural areas. During discussions at the World Radio Communication 2019 (WRC-19), China actively supported the use of the 6 GHz band for 5G, with a decision expected to be made at WRC-23. However, with many countries announcing that the band will be used for Wi-Fi, and with many more expected to do so over the coming months, it may put additional pressure on China to leverage part of the 6 GHz band for unlicensed use.