Wi-Fi Alliance says momentum underscores need for entire 6GHz spectrum

Consortium of companies delivering products and services based on key wireless technology insists that recent new product availability and large-scale deployments from its members demonstrate readiness of Wi-Fi 6E standard

The battle for who can take advantage of the prestigious 6GHz spectrum band has taken a further step, with the Wi-Fi Alliance pressing global comms regulators and policy-makers to open the entire 1200MHz of spectrum in 6GHz for Wi-Fi following a surge in new product and service announcements.

The alliance, which represents the worldwide network of companies that brings Wi-Fi products and services, says the 6GHz band in the Wi-Fi domain is satisfying growing demand for higher-bandwidth services and more immersive experiences. Indeed, the alliance believes that since its introduction, the Wi-Fi 6E standard has gained traction as the de-facto industry standard in products and with the healthcare, education, and sports and entertainment environments.

It says Wi-Fi 6E is delivering value to users, enterprises and service providers which, going forward, will have a significant impact on user experiences for students, employees, healthcare workers, researchers and entrepreneurs. It also believes that enterprises deploying Wi-Fi 6E will see a competitive advantage, but that all of these are contingent on exclusive use of the 6GHz band.

The alliance notes that greatest socio-economic value will be derived for the entire 1200MHz of spectrum in the band. That is to say, making the full 1200MHz of spectrum available, rather than only opening the lower portion (500MHz) of the band to Wi-Fi, is critical to giving people the most opportunity to experience the full Wi-Fi 6E benefits from new products or large-scale deployments.

The Wi-Fi Alliance claimed users were already demanding superior Wi-Fi, and countries and regions making all 1200MHz of spectrum available are helping to ensure people can experience the full benefits of Wi-Fi 6E.

Some of the latest countries enabling Wi-Fi 6E access in 6GHz spectrum include Bahrain, Kenya and New Zealand and the alliance noted that in Europe, Vodafone conducted a study of 4,000 people that showed four out of five households where someone works from home equated the importance of Wi-Fi access to that of electricity and gas. More than 660 Wi-Fi 6E devices have been listed as Wi-Fi Certified by the Wi-Fi Alliance.

However, the issue is hugely contentious in the world of communications. In August 2022, a report from global mobile trade association the GSMA warned that as enhanced broadband, internet of things and data permeate every aspect of society, mobile networks, especially 5G infrastructures, will require spectrum plans that can fulfil the long-term vision of each country.

The report discussed the development progress of 6GHz IMT systems and the central role that 6GHz will play in delivering successful 5G roll-outs. It warned that allocating the full 6GHz band to unlicensed use risked countries losing out on the full benefits of scarce spectrum resource and damaging their ability to maximise the societal impact of governments’ and operators’ investments in 5G networks.

In May 2021, the GSMA also 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.

The association added 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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