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Spectrum utilisation alliance calls for licence-exempt access to entire 6GHz band

Research reveals urgent need for access to 6GHz band which, when open, could add over $1tn to the world’s economy by 2025

The Dynamic Spectrum Alliance (DSA) has issued a demand for the opening of the full 6GHz communications band for licence-exempt technologies.

The call comes as the DSA – in partnership with communications industry and IT giants Broadcom, Cisco, Facebook, Google, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Intel and Microsoft – has released new research showing how allocating the entire 6GHz band to licence-exempt use can provide important economic benefits.

The Alliance believes that as applications become more bandwidth-intensive and connected devices with increasing data demands continue to proliferate, the sustainability of digital ecosystems relies on licence-exempt technologies such as Wi-Fi. At the same time, fixed and mobile broadband networks continue to get faster and more data hungry with the evolution of fibre as well as the transition from 4G to 5G.

The DSA first made the case for access to the 6GHz frequency band to develop Wi-Fi 6/6E applications in November 2020, noting that offering wider channels up to 160MHz, and data rates and capacity up to 9.6Gbps (compared with 3.5Gbps in Wi-Fi 5), can deliver better reliability, lower latency, more deterministic behaviour and better network efficiency, especially in environments with many connected devices. It added that the use cases for Wi-Fi 6also known as 802.11ax, include service for high-density wireless locations, internet of things support and indoor wireless coverage.

The latest report, 6GHz licence exempt: why the full 1200MHz and why now?, highlighted that regulators globally have reached a remarkable and swift consensus with 6GHz regulatory decisions covering nearly 54% of the global GDP, and nearly 42% of GDP having opened, or proposed opening, the full 6GHz band to licence-exempt use.

This “assertive” action is happening, said the DSA, in part because governments have recognised the key role that robust broadband connectivity plays in the lives of citizens, the state of their economies, and in supporting national broadband connectivity deployments.

Opening the full 6GHz band to licence-exempt technologies is a critical step to foster innovation, said the DSA. “Wi-Fi 6E technology is ready now and the benefits from enabling licence-exempt access to 1200MHz in the 6GHz band will have an immediate impact in countries worldwide,” said DSA president Martha Suarez. “Global momentum towards opening the 6GHz band for licence-exempt RLAN technology has been exploding. The 5925-7125MHz band has opened in Brazil, the Republic of Korea, the US, Saudi Arabia, Peru and Canada, with more countries in the process of following suit.”

The Alliance said expeditious action by regulators will make spectrum available for next generations of licence-exempt technologies (Wi-Fi 7 and 5G NR-U, for example) while keeping their countries positioned on the leading edge of innovation. Wi-Fi 7 is seen as being able to boost innovation, unlocking the emergence of future generations of applications, including augmented reality, virtual reality, holographic and haptic systems.

The report also cited studies from the Wi-Fi Alliance in conjunction with the Telecom Advisory Services looking at the impact of Wi-Fi on global and national economies, concluding that globally, assuming regulators open the full 6GHz band to Wi-Fi, the $3.3tn in Wi-Fi value to the world’s economy in 2021 will rise to $4.9tn in 2025.

Yet the issue is hugely contentious in the world of communications. In May 2021, the mobile industry’s trade association, the GSMA, warned that the global future of 5G was at risk if governments failed to align on licensing 6GHz spectrum. The GSMA said the full speed and capabilities of 5G depended on the 6GHz mid-band spectrum and, more particularly, because governments were already diverging in what they were planning to do in this range.

It noted that the 6GHz band was not only for mobile network operators to provide enhanced affordable connectivity for greater social inclusion, but also to deliver the data speeds and capacity needed for smart cities, transport and factories. The trade body cited research estimating that 5G networks need 2GHz of mid-band spectrum over the next decade to deliver on the technology’s full potential.

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