The Road to WRC-23: Important decision-making that will affect the future of connectivity
Across the world, many administrations continue to harbor concerns about the potential identification of the upper 6 GHz band (6.425-7.125 GHz) for International Mobile Telecommunications (IMT) in ITU Region 1 at the upcoming World Radiocommunication Conference 2023 (WRC-23). Administrations are particularly worried about the risks of commercial IMT services interfering with incumbent fixed link and satellite services operating in this band. A recent study conducted for the regulator in the Czech Republic1 recommended maintaining the existing status of the upper 6 GHz band after calculating the costs of migrating fixed radio point-to-point links to another band to make way for IMT commercial services.
The Arab Spectrum Management Group, the African Telecommunications Union, and the Regional Commonwealth in the field of Communications have indicated tentative support for an IMT identification in the upper 6 GHz frequency band with yet to be defined regulatory conditions that will be necessary to protect existing services. The Asia-Pacific Telecommunity (APT) expressed support for the IMT identification only in the 7.025-7.125 GHz band, but could not reach consensus for a WRC-23 position on the 6.425-7.025 GHz band.
In Europe, administrations are keen both to protect incumbent services in the upper 6 GHz band and to secure the future of Wi-Fi technology with sufficient spectrum to meet the burgeoning demand. At its last WRC-23 preparatory meeting, the European Conference of Postal and Telecommunications Administrations (CEPT) decided not to support the IMT identification in the upper 6 GHz band. European administrations agreed that CEPT may accept such IMT identification, but only if the WRC-23 satisfies the following five conditions:
- Protection of primary services from potential IMT interference in the upper 6 GHz band is ensured.
- New primary allocations in the frequency bands 4.2-4.4 GHz, and 8.4-8.5 GHz for the Earth Exploration Space Service for the continued operation of sea surface temperature measurements.
- No limitations are imposed on the existing services and their future development.
- The resulting WRC-23 Resolution must clearly outline opportunities for other broadband applications in the mobile services (i.e., WAS/RLAN), as well as sufficient flexibility regarding the future wireless broadband usage, i.e., by IMT, WAS/RLAN, or under a shared framework between IMT and WAS/RLAN.
- WRC-23 would not approve a future WRC agenda item (i.e., for WRC-27) to study additional IMT identifications in frequency bands between 7 and 30 GHz where IMT would have the potential to jeopardize important European space and governmental operations.
In effect, CEPT has recognized that identifying more mid-band spectrum for IMT should not be at the expense of other spectrum uses, such as terrestrial and satellite operations or the future of Wi-Fi technology in connectivity in Europe and beyond. Indeed, it is becoming increasingly clear that the upper 6 GHz spectrum is critical to enabling broadband connectivity in Europe with the expanding fiber deployments and latest generation of Wi-Fi.
Several countries, including Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, and the U.S., have already opened the full 6 GHz band (5.925-7.125 GHz) for high-performance connectivity delivered by Wi-Fi. This fact is reflected in the WRC-23 position adopted by the Inter-American Telecommunication Commission (CITEL) for “No Change” to the upper 6 GHz at WRC-23. CITEL has highlighted the importance of harmonizing the upper 6 GHz to foster economies of scope and scale and produce a robust equipment market, benefiting consumers and national economies worldwide.
In summary, while different regions have adopted different positions on a potential IMT identification of the upper 6 GHz band, there is widespread recognition that existing services in the band must be protected from possible IMT deployments. As that will be very difficult, perhaps impossible to achieve, WRC-23 needs to be careful not to undermine the significant benefits delivered by 6 GHz Wi-Fi.
Four points the Wi-Fi industry urges national regulators to consider
- Do not restrict the 6 GHz band to IMT – keep your options open:
The 6.425-7.125 GHz band is already allocated by ITU Radio Regulations to the Mobile service on a primary basis. That gives administrations the flexibility to allow the use of various mobile systems and applications of the mobile service (e.g., electronic news gathering, IMT, or RLAN) based on their national priorities and requirements. Designating this spectrum to IMT at WRC-23 would impede the introduction of the latest Wi-Fi and other technologies. With a diverse and growing 6 GHz product ecosystem, Wi-Fi fits perfectly with market needs and customer preferences for broadband wireless connectivity without disrupting 6 GHz incumbent users. When allowed, Wi-Fi operations in the 6 GHz band quickly and significantly enhance the value of the spectrum.
- IMT networks cannot coexist with incumbent operations in the 6 GHz band:
Commercially-viable IMT services (cellular deployments) in the 6 GHz band cannot coexist with ongoing incumbent operations in this frequency range. To provide extensive coverage, IMT-wide area networks operate at power levels that make it very difficult for them to share the spectrum. Hence, licensed IMT networks cannot avoid interfering with, or tolerate interference, from incumbent operations in the 6 GHz band.
- Designation of 6.425-7.125 GHz for IMT at WRC-23 undermines connectivity objectives:
The absence of a commercial 6 GHz IMT equipment ecosystem means that 6 GHz IMT deployments are not feasible in the short to medium term. An IMT identification would stall the value and benefits from that spectrum, and exacerbate the connectivity divide with regions where Wi-Fi operates in the full 6 GHz band. The IMT spectrum requirements can be addressed in other frequency bands without impeding the introduction of advanced 6 GHz Wi-Fi technologies now or in the future.
- Wi-Fi access to the full 6 GHz band is imperative to the future of broadband connectivity:
While high-speed broadband is delivered by either fiber, fixed-wireless, or satellite technologies, Wi-Fi is the primary means of distributing this connectivity to end-users. Considering that high-speed broadband capabilities continue to increase, with policymakers targeting multi-gigabit capabilities, it is imperative to ensure that Wi-Fi spectrum bandwidth does not become a bottleneck for broadband connectivity. Only with access to the 6.425-7.125 GHz spectrum can Wi-Fi support ever-increasing demands for data throughput rates, ultra-low and deterministic latencies, better mobility, and high densities of users/devices.
The statements and opinions by each Wi-Fi Alliance member and those providing comments are theirs alone, and do not reflect the opinions or views of Wi-Fi Alliance or any other member. Wi-Fi Alliance is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information provided by any member in posting to or commenting on this blog. Concerns should be directed to email@example.com.