By Carlos Cordeiro, CTO, Wireless Communication Solutions at Intel Corporation
If you’ve been following the wireless industry, you may have noticed the large amount of attention being given to Wi-Fi 6. New products, services, devices and even business models based on Wi-Fi 6 seem to be rolling out almost daily.
There is good reason for this excitement. Wi-Fi 6, based on the IEEE 802.11ax standard, is the latest and most advanced generation of the Wi-Fi technology essential to American consumers and businesses. According to research from NCTA, an Internet and television trade association, nearly 9 in 10 American households with broadband Internet use Wi-Fi to get online. They estimate that Wi-Fi added about $500 billion to the U.S. economy in 2018 and expect that number to exceed $1 trillion annually by 2023.
Wi-Fi 6 is bringing much needed technical improvements that both boost performance and support the exploding number of new devices using Wi-Fi to connect to the Internet, particularly in very crowded environments.
At the recent Consumer Electronics Show, an array of Wi-Fi 6 solutions were on display. These announcements, as well as the FCC proposed opening of additional spectrum in the 6 GHz band for unlicensed use of Wi-Fi, is very good news.
Why is the 6 GHz band so important? Simply put, the current 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz Wi-Fi bands are crowded. No new spectrum has been made available for Wi-Fi in the US in approximately 20 years, a span during which our range of connected devices, use of computing and demand for data has skyrocketed.
Intel and other Wi-Fi Alliance (WFA) member companies are working to ensure that advanced Wi-Fi capabilities can support this expanding world of connected devices and services and help bring broadband services to even more American consumers and businesses.
Today, Alliance members are working towards an upcoming certification program for the use of Wi-Fi 6 in 6 GHz. Known officially as Wi-Fi 6E, this program promises to increase and advance Wi-Fi’s economic contribution, improving entire industries and transforming our experiences at sporting events and concerts, in airports, shopping centers, and theme parks, while using public transportation, and connecting at home and at work.
Intel is developing next-generation Wi-Fi chipset technology for access points and PCs optimized for 6GHz to further leverage Wi-Fi 6 capabilities like 160 MHz channels and network access management in the new, clean spectrum band. Today we are sampling new Wi-Fi technology to service providers in preparation for the WFA January 2021 certification launch of 6E, and helping PC, router and gateway OEMs with solutions that will deliver best-in-class experiences on Wi-Fi 6E devices as they become available.
The 1200 MHz of spectrum in the 6GHz band that is under consideration for unlicensed use in the US would go a long way toward addressing the spectrum shortage today. Importantly, it has the potential to provide the large channels needed to support very high-bandwidth and very low latency applications such as high-definition video streaming, virtual and augmented reality, and connected IoT devices, which are increasingly critical to businesses and households.
Wi-Fi can share the 6 GHz band with all different categories of incumbent users. We take seriously Wi-Fi’s obligation to protect incumbents from harmful interference and are confident that all involved can work in partnership with the FCC to develop a sharing framework that ensures use and access for both existing and new applications.
Wi-Fi has already contributed billions to the U.S. economy. With the efforts of Wi-Fi Alliance member companies and the FCC, there is an opportunity to build on Wi-Fi’s past success, prepare it for the future, and ensure that it will continue to be a source of American innovation and growth for years to come. The time has come to expand use of unlicensed spectrum in the US and across the globe. This added spectrum can help ensure wireless access for the ever-increasing number of device and application innovations relying on Wi-Fi at home, at work and in communities worldwide.