6 GHz Wi-Fi®: Connecting to the future (2022)
Internet connectivity is an essential socioeconomic function and Wi-Fi® is the primary means of delivering it to billions of users around the world. As with any wireless technology, Wi-Fi functionality depends on access to frequency spectrum. Recognizing that lack of spectrum access threatens Wi-Fi performance and functionality, policymakers are expanding spectrum access for Wi-Fi with a particular focus on the 6 Gigahertz (GHz) band (5.925 to 7.125 GHz).
Opening the 6 GHz band to Wi-Fi enables a wide range of new technologies and use cases, which aligns with growing broadband (e.g., fiber) deployments. Wi-Fi connectivity is versatile, extremely affordable, and compatible with existing networks, sharing security, management, and authentication implementations. This makes Wi-Fi an ideal “force multiplier.” Importantly, Wi-Fi technology, built on IEEE 802.11 standards, has demonstrated its ability to coexist with and protect other spectrum users. Coexistence is inherent to Wi-Fi technology as it is essential to Wi-Fi’s efficient operation.
Technical, operational, and regulatory solutions already adopted by various countries to ensure Wi-Fi coexistence with ongoing, incumbent operations in the 6 GHz band are also facilitating regulatory harmonization. This creates economies of scale and a robust ecosystem, benefitting businesses, consumers, and economies. But these benefits cannot be realized in the absence of Wi-Fi access to adequate spectrum capacity in the 6 GHz band.
Although several countries already authorized Wi-Fi access in the entire 6 GHz band, the upper portion of this spectrum (i.e., 6.425 to 7.125 GHz) will be under consideration at the upcoming 2023 World Radiocommunication Conference (WRC-23) for a potential International Mobile Telecommunications (IMT) designation to support licensed 5G networks, devices, and services (5G/IMT). The pending WRC-23 outcome has caused regulatory uncertainty that is impeding the introduction of advanced 6 GHz Wi-Fi technology and use cases. To rectify the situation and resolve this uncertainty in a timely manner, Wi-Fi Alliance calls on policymakers to consider that:
- 5G/IMT networks cannot coexist with incumbent services in the 6.425 to 7.125 GHz frequency band or deliver commercially viable services. The arguments advanced by 5G/IMT proponents are flawed for several reasons, including unrealistic forecasts of demand, the existence of multiple alternative spectrum options, and lack of coexistence with incumbent users of 6 GHz, to name a few. In fact, much of the spectrum previously designated for 5G/IMT remains underutilized, including 4 to 5 GHz, 26/28 GHz, 39 GHz, and 42 GHz, as well as other frequency bands already earmarked for 5G/IMT use. Even if the WRC-23 were to identify the 6.425 to 7.125 GHz band for 5G/IMT in some countries, significant time (i.e., years) and investment would be required to develop, implement, deploy, and operate 5G/IMT networks in the upper 6 GHz band. It is unlikely that such 5G/IMT networks would be commercially viable given their limited market scale and harmonization. Importantly, proposed 5G/IMT implementations would lack the economies of scale necessary for a robust equipment ecosystem or commercial viability. In short, additional 6 GHz spectrum cannot address the underlying problems of 5G/IMT networks
- The next generation of wireless connectivity (i.e., 6G) use cases cannot be delivered by wide area networks, as these use cases require computational resources and connectivity that is hundreds if not thousands of times faster than current 5G/IMT implementations. These use cases will be predominated by immersive experiences such as virtual-, augmented-, and extended-reality (VR/AR/XR), wearables, telehealth, industrial automation, IoT, 3D-video, etc. Instead of wide area networks, the next generation of connectivity will rely on local area, short range communications, such as the next generation of Wi-Fi, which is designed for more data traffic, more devices, more applications, and much lower latencies
- Wi-Fi significantly outperforms 5G/IMT in energy efficiency through low power, cognitive radio techniques. Greater energy efficiency in conjunction with significantly lower equipment and deployment infrastructure costs make Wi-Fi one of the most eco-friendly and economical communications solutions
On all these grounds, it is imperative for policymakers to act now to secure Wi-Fi availability and performance by designating spectrum access to the entire 6 GHz band.
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