Wi-Fi 6E gets major boost with 6GHz spectrum allocation

(Image credit: Netgear)

The US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has approved the use of 6GHz spectrum for unlicensed use cases, paving the way for the development Wi-Fi 6E services for consumers and industry.

Wi-Fi 6 is a generational shift in wireless communications and is viewed as a complementary technology to 5G, boosting speeds, enhancing capacity and lowering latency.

The wireless industry positions Wi-Fi 6 as the unlicensed standard of choice for digitisation, competing against licensed cellular networks, proprietary connectivity standards, and other technologies like Bluetooth.

Wi-Fi 6E spectrum

Wi-Fi 6E extends and builds on the capabilities of Wi-Fi 6 through the use of high-level spectrum. Tests have so far achieved 2Gps and consistent two-millisecond low latency. These characteristics make wireless suitable for mission critical business applications as well as use cases that require high data rates such as Virtual and Augmented Reality (VR and AR).

The FCC has made 1200MHz of spectrum, currently used by microwave links, available in the US. Low power operations will be permitted across all 6GHz frequencies with standard power devices limited to 850MHz of bandwidth. Future regulation would allow very low power devices to operate across the band.

The additional capacity is nearly six times the total capacity of the 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands currently allocated for Wi-Fi. Industry bodies have said the ruling will stimulate development of the Wi-Fi 6E ecosystem, with the Wi-Fi Alliance expected to open certification for the first devices in early 2021.

“By making 6 GHz available for unlicensed use, the FCC has secured the future of Wi-Fi. 6 GHz access is a seminal development for connectivity and provides Wi-Fi more capacity to deliver groundbreaking use cases and to unlock novel new Wi-Fi applications,” said Edgar Figueroa, Wi-Fi Alliance CEO. “Today’s global climate highlights how important Wi-Fi is in connectivity and productivity, and new Wi-Fi 6E solutions will further increase Wi-Fi’s standing.”

“Wi-Fi 6E technology is designed to deliver performance in highly congested places,” added Tiago Rodrigues, CEO of the Wireless Broadband Alliance. “The next phase of our trials will prove that performance in real world locations. These trials will demonstrate the application and the benefits of the technology in live environments and through this accelerate the adoption and creation of new business opportunities enabled by the opening of the 6GHz spectrum to be used for Wi-Fi services.”

Steve McCaskill is TechRadar Pro's resident mobile industry expert, covering all aspects of the UK and global news, from operators to service providers and everything in between. He is a former editor of Silicon UK and journalist with over a decade's experience in the technology industry, writing about technology, in particular, telecoms, mobile and sports tech, sports, video games and media.