6GHZ Wi-Fi: A clear signal

It’s great news that the FCC have unanimously voted to open up the whole 1200MHz of the 6GHz band to Wi-Fi and other unlicensed use. It’s widely covered in the news already since the FCC published the result of the vote on 23rd April 2020. The Wi-Fi Alliance will certify compliant devices as Wi-Fi 6E.

Follow Omnisperience live updates

Information today is mostly a regurgitation of the same announcement, but tonight the industry gathers for a series of exciting presentations from FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, Wi-Fi Alliance, Qualcomm, Broadcom, Cisco, Intel, Charter and more. I will be providing a live update on twitter so if you want to know more, follow me here before 1pm EST.

Before that, here’s Omnisperience’s view and questions for the industry

As we already know, Covid-19 has shifted the telecommunications industry away from their 2020 strategies and there will be an impact on the growth of 5G coverage. So this announcement is providing some new, much needed certainty to broadband consumers. 

A major benefit of Wi-Fi 6E over 5G is that the end user will be able to choose when they can see the benefits. Rather than waiting to see if there’ll be (patchy) 5G coverage in your area, the consumer can decide to buy Wi-Fi 6E equipment and devices and take advantage of the benefits when it suits them. It’s a ‘budget’ vs ‘need’ equation. 6E devices will be available in 2020 and IDC predicts 316 million compatible devices will be shipped in 2020 – so expect this to be an IT decision which many are going to make.

It will be a game changer! Craig Cowden, SVP of wireless technology, for Charter puts it like this “The FCC vote to allow unlicensed sharing in 6GHz will transform Wi-Fi and our daily lives by unleashing innovation that will create immersive online learning and training experiences, advanced telehealth, ultra-high resolution entertainment, and much more.”

What’s it all about – really

Amongst the flurry of coverage out there we want to highlight a few main points which should help anyone thinking of jumping on the 6E bandwagon as soon as possible. Of course, everyone’s telling us that we can get multi-gigabit bandwidths, the reality is very few of us have that coming to our premise. So whereas this is all very well and interesting, it’s more applicable the next time we decide to increase the service speed, which for many means waiting for new fibre services and upgrades.

So, it is not about speed but resilience. It’s getting the fibre service you pay for today – un-contended at your device – wherever you are in your home or office. And here is how that happens:

  • There’s less background interference in the 6GHz band. No need to worry so much about home equipment causing interference and when your partner turns on the microwave mid-way through your Zoom call there’ll be no impact.
  • Avoiding neighbour interference. There’ll be 14 x 80MHz channels available in the US, which should be plenty for your home equipment to find a nice clear channel and give you the full performance of your in-bound fibre connection.

But we have questions (and will bring you answers)

At 6GHz, the signals do not travel as far as the original 2.4GHz band. And to avoid interference with existing systems, indoor coverage will be low power.

Although access points will be adaptive and fall back to 2.4GHz as devices get further away, the full benefit will only be realised when the device is fairly close to the equipment (or at least has few obstructions). Our view is that Wi-Fi meshes are going to be needed more than before. Some service providers call these “Whole Home” solutions and charge the customer for mesh nodes or “extenders”, and in many cases it’s an expense which is hard to swallow. It’s now likely most homes or offices will need more equipment – a large factor-in cost.

Our question here is whether we might see a drop in price or even bundling of mesh systems into service provider’s standard equipment? Does it even make sense to buy Wi-Fi 6E equipment which is not a mesh?

In order to use the 6GHz band outside the home where higher power is needed, devices will use an automated frequency coordination system to avoid incumbent services in the band. The industry has struggled to make this work for DFS (radar band) and TV Whitespace in the past. There are some CBRS deployments, however, which use similar concepts. So we’re waiting to hear from the industry on how well they expect this technology to work.

Stay tuned for the next instalment!

So, exciting times for Wi-Fi and you probably want to know more. I’ll be providing live updates on Twitter as this goes live and watch this space to see some answers to our questions.

  1. Chris Thomas Avatar
    Chris Thomas

    All the nonsense around 5G and coronavirus has clouded the real issues and concerns of real scientists: https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/observations/we-have-no-reason-to-believe-5g-is-safe/
    There is concern that even testing on 4G was pretty sparse, so what about long-term exposure to 6GHz signals in the home? As of 19th April, 2020 353 scientists and doctors have appealed to the EU to halt rollout until substantial testing has been done.
    What is your opinion?