6GHz Wi-Fi has arrived

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) last week voted to open up additional spectrum in the 6GHz band for unlicensed use by Wi-Fi networks in the US.

The decision means that more than 1,200MHz of spectrum will be available for use on upcoming Wi-Fi 6E standard devices.

The standard was specifically designated to describe Wi-Fi 6 or 802.11ax devices that are capable of connecting via the 6GHz frequency band.

This was the first time in 17 years that additional spectrum was allocated for Wi-Fi connectivity.

Shortfall of spectrum

Wi-Fi networks carry large amounts of mobile data traffic, despite only having 600MHZ of total spectrum to operate within in the 2.4GHz and 5GHz frequency bands.

This will not be enough in the coming years, however, as these networks have to support an increase in Internet-enabled devices, including IoT gadgets such as smart wearables and smart home appliances.

Cisco has projected that nearly 60% of global mobile data traffic will be carried by Wi-Fi connections by the year 2022.

A study commissioned by the Wi-Fi Alliance predicted an 800MHz shortfall this year, which could climb to 1.12GHz by 2025.

The benefits of 6GHz

Aside from being required to support the growth in Wi-Fi enabled devices, the 6GHz band offers multiple advantages over 5GHz.

This includes increased bandwidth, faster speeds, and lower latency.

According to Cisco, the 6GHz range has over twice the bandwidth of the 5GHz range, primarily because it is capable of carrying up to seven 160MHz channels.

“6GHz addresses Wi-Fi spectrum shortage by providing contiguous spectrum blocks to accommodate 14 additional 80MHz channels and seven additional 160MHz channels which are needed for high-bandwidth applications,” the Wi-Fi Alliance explained.

In trials recently conducted by Broadcom, it was shown that Wi-Fi devices capable of operating in the 6GHz band could reach data throughput speeds of 2Gbps while maintaining a consistent latency of 2ms.

The reduced latency is because there were no legacy devices on the 6GHz band that could slow transfer rates down.

Because of the higher frequency, however, the range is reduced.

When to expect availability

Vice President of Marketing for Broadcom Wireless Communications and Connectivity Vijay Nagarajan said that the first Wi-Fi 6E devices are expected to be launched later in 2020.

“We’re expecting the first set of devices to come to market in the second half of this year,” Nagarajan said.

“You’ll see a whole slew of devices, both on the infrastructure side and on the client-side, and much more in a much more accelerated manner in 2021,” Nagarajan stated.

As these devices gain widespread adoption, more Wi-Fi users could expect to see the 6GHz band being opened for use in other regions.

Now read: New spectrum – What you can expect from Vodacom, MTN, Telkom, and Rain

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6GHz Wi-Fi has arrived