FCC Opens 6 GHz Frequency, Opening the Future of Wi-Fi

Published on May 8, 2020

FCC Opens 6 GHz Frequency, Opening the Future of Wi-Fi

A New Band of Frequencies Means New Possibilities

Recently, the Federal Communications Commission announced that it would open a new range of frequencies in the 6 GHz band to unlicensed uses, such as Wi-Fi. This change opens up a 1200 MHz-wide range of frequency to consumer uses that was previously restricted primarily to utility, public safety, and wireless backhaul applications. Opening up this additional frequency band to consumer applications like Wi-Fi will mean a big increase to the quality and bandwidth of consumer Wi-Fi, as well as allowing many more devices share a wireless network.

There is still a great deal of work to be done to design for interoperability with existing occupants of the 6 GHz band, as well as how to handle low-power and higher-power entrants sharing the space.  However, this change paves the way for Wi-Fi 6, the latest generation of Wi-Fi, as well as the high volume of low-power sensor and control-type devices associated with the internet of things.

In this post we’ll look at the existing frequency demand and some intended uses for the 6 GHz spectrum.

The First Spectrum Increase Since 2014

In the decades since Wi-Fi was first introduced to the public, the available frequency and demands on that frequency have changed dramatically. In 1998, Wi-Fi served the needs of wireless LAN at the time, which didn’t include the need for mobile phones, high-definition video, large downloads, and such a high volume of connected devices. The technology has adapted over time to support greater throughput over more of the frequency range, and in 2014 the FCC opened broader portions of the 5 GHz band to customer use.

This expansion was designed to usher in the next wave of Wi-Fi, 802.11ac, which introduced gigabit wireless speeds and expanded multi-in, multi-out (MIMO) streams to allow unprecedented throughput. The additional frequency spectrum provided to unlicensed uses like Wi-Fi was instrumental in meeting consumers’ needs for better Wi-Fi performance.

No additional wireless spectrum has been made available to Wi-Fi since 2014, and wireless usage has continued to skyrocket. New demand takes the form of high-bandwidth applications like 4K media streaming, widespread video conferencing, wireless VR headsets, and the exploding volume of IoT type devices. This can mean dozens of devices sharing a single home network, all communicating intermittently, all day long.

The 1200 MHz of frequency space in the 6 GHz band is meant to address all these demands and more, as Wi-Fi 6 approaches consumer applications.

6 GHz and Wi-Fi 6: The Future of Wi-Fi

Previously designated 802.11ax, the latest generation of Wi-Fi is known as Wi-Fi 6. Already available on consumer hardware, Wi-Fi 6 elevates the data rates from 802.11ac to a new level, claiming a theoretical 11 Gbit/s data rates, with a throughput as much as 4x higher than the previous generation. Wi-Fi 6 is the latest in the Wi-Fi Alliance’s ongoing answer to growing demand for Wi-Fi performance.

However, to take advantage of this newly available spectrum, devices will need to be certified to the Wi-Fi 6E standard. Wi-Fi 6E is a specific designation for Wi-Fi 6 devices which utilize the new 6 GHz frequency range.

One of the major advantages to utilizing the 6 GHz range is the opening of wider channels to connected devices, up to 160 MHz each. It’s important to note how massive this is. The entirety of the frequency available in existing 2.4 GHz / 5 GHz Wi-Fi is about 400 MHz in bandwidth. With a full 1200 MHz of bandwidth being added, the amount of frequency space available to Wi-Fi applications is going to grow by a factor of 4.

This additional frequency will also mean much better performance regarding coexistence with other Wi-Fi networks. Right now, in nearly any residential area, the number of Wi-Fi routers operating adjacent to each other and competing for space is overwhelming. With 4x the available frequency space, it will be much easier for users to enjoy the full throughput of their wireless network without interference from other networks and users.

Wi-Fi 6 Solutions, Made by Ezurio (formerly Laird Connectivity)

The future of Wi-Fi 6 means many new and exciting ways for you to deploy Wi-Fi in your design. Go forward confidently with a trusted partner and expert in product development.

Ezurio is actively developing for the next generation of Wi-Fi, doing our best to prepare and educate our customers on the needs and challenges along the way. For critical information you need to know about antenna needs for Wi-Fi 6, see our application brief on antenna considerations for Wi-Fi 6.

Ezurio is the antenna authority, and we not only provide dozens of stock Wi-Fi antennas for nearly any wireless application, we also provide custom antennas designed to your unique specifications. We are a fully capable design house with experience in all aspects of product development and can provide the perfect customized antenna for wireless products, infrastructure, or anything you can envision.

We’ll also bring our experience in Wi-Fi module development to Wi-Fi 6 in the future. Keep a lookout for Wi-Fi 6 modules from Ezurio which leverage our decades of module development, enterprise software and security, and excellence in manufacturing quality.

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