Wi-Fi gets a needed shot in the arm to handle increased internet traffic and to offload traffic from 5G.
This morning, 5G Technology World reported on new ICs that will take advantage of an expected boost in Wi-Fi that adds 1200 MHz of spectrum. Today, the FCC announced its approval of the so-called 6 GHz band to unlicensed use for Wi-Fi. The decision, enthusiastically praised by all FCC Commissioners, will boost connectivity by increasing the total Wi-Fi spectrum by a factor of five.
Wi-Fi 6E covers the frequency band from 5.125 GHz to 7.125 GHz. The technology makes provisions that maintain support for incumbent licensed services, giving them priority over unlicensed transmissions. It also opens the door for low-power devices such as wearables. “Very low power devices could enable a new and innovative generation of personal area network technologies with low latency, high capacity, and all-day battery life,” said FCC Chair Ajit Pai. “These very low power devices could include accessibility technology for Americans with disabilities, virtual reality gaming, augmented reality glasses, in-vehicle systems, and other emerging technologies which we can only now dream of.” The actual signal power transmitted by client devices will be set by rule, which is still open to discussion.
Very-low power (VLP) devices will have the entire 1200 MHz available while standard power devices will have access to some 850 MHz. The 6-GHz band will not only provide bandwidth for more Wi-Fi channels, but the channel will be wider. While IEEE 802.11ac (Wi-Fi 5) does specify channels with 80-80 and 160 MHz bandwidth, it lacks the bandwidth to make them practical. Wi-Fi 6E changes that.
The additional capacity will help move indoor cellular service from 5G networks to Wi-Fi. That need will grow as mmWave services come online because signals at those frequencies won’t penetrate walls. These handoffs to Wi-Fi will ease the burden of handing traffic to LTE networks. Furthermore, Wi-Fi 6 adds capacity over Wi-Fi 5 through 1024 QAM modulation as opposed to 256 QAM.
FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel added “with fiber, cable, and commercial wireless all moving to gigabit speeds, existing Wi-Fi risks being the bottleneck for faster speeds at home. Without making more and more wide channels available, our online experiences are going to feel a lot like getting off a superhighway onto a gravel road.” I’m not so sure about that, at least not yet. I see the biggest asset of Wi-Fi 6E coming from the offloading of 5G traffic inside buildings. Without it, people are less likely to be satisfied with 5G if the highest speed service from mmWaves isn’t available indoors. As for in-home use, the available service and what you’re willing to pay pay for it becomes the bottleneck.
Expect to see more announcements on components and systems that support 6 GHz Wi-Fi. We’ll report on them here at 5G Technology World.
- What you should know about Wi-Fi 6 and the 6-GHz band
- It’s Time to Ask Better Questions about WiFi 6 (802.11ax) and 5G
- Wi-Fi Alliance Simplifies Naming Scheme for Different Generations of WiFi Tech
- 11ax: Are we there yet?
- What’s new with Wi-Fi 6? Focus on high-efficiency