In a move widely expected to benefit the Internet of Things, virtual and augmented reality applications and smart home solutions, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has opened the 6 GHz band to a new class of very lower power devices that will operate alongside other Wi-Fi enabled devices.
According to the FCC, the agency in recent years has expanded unlicensed use in 1,200 megahertz of spectrum between 5.925 and 7.125 GHz, which helped the development of Wi-Fi 6E and of Wi-Fi 7, as well as enabling new IoT devices.
The FCC’s move pertains to devices that operate at very low power (VLP) across short distances and provide very high connection speeds for high-data rate applications. According to the FCC, these devices could include augmented and virtual reality devices, wearables, and “a variety of Internet of Things devices.”
However, the new rules limit these devices to very lower power levels and subject them to other technical and operational requirements that will permit them to operate across the U.S. while protecting incumbent licensed services that operate in the 6 GHz band, the FCC says.
Specifically, the new rules authorize very-low power devices in the U-NII-5 and U-NII-7 portions of the 6 GHz band totaling 850 megahertz of spectrum. Operations at power levels significantly lower than other unlicensed 6 GHz devices could occur anywhere, indoors or outdoors, without any need for a frequency coordination system, according to the FCC.
The Commission also proposed expanding operation of these very low power unlicensed devices to the remainder of the 6 GHz band and permitting VLP devices more operational flexibility through higher power levels subject to a geofencing system that provides interference protection to licensed incumbent operations in the band.
How Tech is Responding to New 6G Access
According to the Wi-Fi Alliance, the FCC’s decision will enable a new era of Wi-Fi and the development of a new generation of Wi-Fi connected devices.
“The Wi-Fi industry is eager to leverage this decision to realize benefits for American consumers and enterprises,” the organization says.
The decision was met with widespread praise by Big Tech companies, which have been petitioning the agency to let them access the 6 GHz band.
In a statement on its Public Policy X, Amazon said it applauds the agency’s move.
“Amazon is leveraging this band to deliver the latest technology for our customers, including our first Wi-Fi 7 device, the eero Max 7, and the new Fire Stick 4K Max,” the company says. “We appreciate the FCC’s leadership on this band in the U.S. and at the upcoming ITU World Radiocommunication Conference 2023.”
Meanwhile, the Google Pixel X account says the 6 GHz band has become critical for the future of wireless connectivity.
“Today’s vote by the FCC is a win for Pixel users and American consumers, as this band will now be available for high-speed peer-to-peer Wi-Fi communication,” the company says. “We thank the FCC for its leadership.”
Chipmaker Qualcomm had similar sentiments, saying the move will “impact everything from education to healthcare – and Qualcomm is working to bring those many benefits to the public ASAP.”
Other companies that are playing in the AR/VR space, such as Apple and Meta, similarly lauded the move. In addition, Broadcom, Cisco, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Intel, Microsoft, NXP Semiconductors and Ruckus Networks submitted several filings during the proceedings.
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