Wi-Fi 6E Insights: Q1 2022 Editorial
April 21, 2022 by Alex Roytblat
This editorial appears in the April 2022 edition (Issue 5) of the Wi-Fi Alliance® Wi-Fi 6E Insights newsletter, a quarterly newsletter sharing updates on regulatory developments in the growing Wi-Fi 6E ecosystem. To subscribe to the newsletter, please sign up here.
Welcome to the latest edition of the Wi-Fi 6E Insights newsletter. Wi-Fi 6E refers to Wi-Fi 6 services extended into the 5925-7125 MHz (the 6 GHz) frequency band. Written for policymakers and regulators in the EMEA region and beyond, this newsletter covers regulatory developments relating to Wi-Fi 6E and the views of key stakeholders.
Two years ago, the U.S. became the first country in the world to open the 6 GHz band up to Wi-Fi®. Since then, many other countries have followed suit, and the Wi-Fi industry has rolled out compatible equipment with remarkable speed.
There are now nearly 200 devices and access points supporting Wi-Fi 6E, including more than 70 laptop models, dozens of consumer and enterprise access points, and dozens of smartphones, as well as several smart televisions. Most, if not all, of these devices contain hardware that is capable of operating over the entire 6 GHz band.
As the market grows, economies of scale are realized, ensuring that Wi-Fi 6E will be very affordable. The latest analyst forecasts anticipate more than 350 million Wi-Fi 6E devices will enter the market in 2022.
In short, the Wi-Fi 6E ecosystem is expanding fast. That buoyancy is underpinned by our Wi-Fi 6 certification program, which helps ensure worldwide interoperability for devices no matter where they are deployed. In simple terms, this certification ensures they will provide a good quality experience and work well individually and together.
Wi-Fi 6E networks ensure each connected device performs at an optimum level, and Wi-Fi CERTIFIED 6™ devices meet the highest standards for security and interoperability.
Evaluating the upper 6 GHz opportunity
Certified Wi-Fi 6E devices will work well wherever the 6 GHz band is available, but the end user experience will depend on how much of this key mid-band spectrum is license exempt. Whereas some countries, such as Brazil, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, and the U.S. have made the full 6 GHz band available on a license-exempt basis, other countries and regions, such as the EU, have started by opening up the lower part of the band (5925-6425 MHz). Until they open the entire band, their citizens and companies are likely to miss out on some of the benefits of 6 GHz Wi-Fi, in terms of greater capacity, wider channels, and faster throughput.
In this newsletter, Mohammad Al Jnoobi, General Manager of Radio Spectrum Planning at the Saudi Arabian regulator the CITC, explains why the Kingdom has made the entire 6 GHz band available on a license-exempt basis. Tellingly, he notes that 4G and 5G have “a huge amount of spectrum” and are delivering world-leading connectivity, while there is a need for more license-exempt spectrum to handle the anticipated increase in internet traffic.
Interestingly, UK regulator Ofcom is proposing to make the upper 6 GHz band available for use under its existing Shared Access Framework, which would allow the UK to take advantage of Wi-Fi 6E devices that operate over the entire 6 GHz range.
One of the key questions for regulators is how best to protect incumbent services in the upper 6 GHz (6425-7125 MHz) band, which is employed by existing fixed links and fixed satellite services. To that end, it is vitally important to complete sharing studies between license-exempt wireless access services, such as Wi-Fi, and the incumbent services. In the EU, an ECC Work Item has initiated such studies, which should be completed in good time to inform the deliberations at the next World Radiocommunication Conference (WRC-23), which will be held in the United Arab Emirates in November and December 2023.
Some of the incumbent operators in the upper 6 GHz band have already concluded that Wi-Fi can effectively coexist with their services. In its input contribution to the recent East African Communications Organization (EACO) WRC-23 preparatory meeting, the Global Satellite Operators Association (GSOA) argued that supporting both satellite and Wi-Fi in the 6 GHz band could have a significant positive social and economic impact in the EACO region.
In the case of Kenya, enabling license-exempt access to the 1200 MHz in the 6 GHz band could add up to 20 billion USD to the Kenyan economy over the next ten years, according to a new study published by the Dynamic Spectrum Alliance and the Telecom Advisory Services LLC. Similar studies show that Nigeria’s economy could benefit to the tune of 72 billion USD in the same timeframe, while South Africa’s economy might see a positive impact of almost 58 billion USD over the next ten years.
These eye-catching figures reflect the potential of Wi-Fi 6E to reduce Wi-Fi congestion and bring affordable broadband to more people and communities by enhancing deployment of municipal Wi-Fi and free Wi-Fi hotspots. These Wi-Fi hotspots provide internet access to households that cannot purchase a broadband plan. In so doing, fully-fledged Wi-Fi 6E will help digitize the local economy, while enriching people’s lives.
This new research further strengthens the case for Africa’s governments to move forward with implementing the recommendation by the African Telecommunications Union (ATU) to make the lower 6 GHz band license exempt. The sooner Wi-Fi 6E is available, the sooner Africa’s citizens and companies will start to benefit.
We hope you find this newsletter a useful source of information on Wi-Fi 6E and its potential to drive socioeconomic progress. If you would like to receive further editions, please subscribe.
Vice President, Worldwide Regulatory Affairs
Alex Roytblat is Vice President of Worldwide Regulatory Affairs, where he is responsible for the organization’s overall regulatory strategy. In his role, Alex works with the Wi-Fi Alliance members and the executive team on the development of regulatory objectives and directs advocacy for the implementation of these objectives with governments, regulators and international organizations.
With over 20 years of experience in the field of international telecom regulations, Alex is an internationally recognized industry advocate. Prior to joining Wi-Fi Alliance, Alex served at the United States Federal Communications Commission (FCC), where he was involved in all phases of domestic and international radio spectrum management processes. Previously, Alex held technical roles for Stanford Telecommunications and Booz Allen & Hamilton. He holds a Master of Science in Communications Networks from Johns Hopkins University and a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering (Eta Kappa Nu) from George Mason University.