How Wi-Fi 6E boosts wireless spectrum five-fold

The Federal Communications Commission has approved a chunk of wireless spectrum called the 6GHz band for unlicensed use by Wi-Fi 6, and gear that supports it could be available by the end of the year.

The Federal Communications commission has opened up a wide swath of wireless spectrum for unlicensed use by Wi-Fi devices, which will lead to Wi-Fi access points that have greatly expanded capacity.

It’s a huge victory for the Wi-Fi industry, as the ruling means that the amount of spectrum available for Wi-Fi just about quintupled in an instant. That means big, spacious channels – and a lot more channels overall – that can handle a lot more data and a lot more connections at the same time, according to Aruba vice president of wireless strategy and standards Chuck Lukaszewski.

“Overnight, you’re going to see an additional gigabit per second or more of potential throughput,” he said.

That’s a major upside, certainly, even if “overnight” might be a slightly optimistic view of when Wi-Fi 6E – the trade name for the new version of Wi-Fi that will take advantage of the new spectrum – hits the market. While some of the necessary standards haven’t yet been finalized by the IEEE, the basic ability to use 6GHz frequencies is already written into the existing Wi-Fi 6 specification.

Broadcom director of product marketing and government affairs Chris Szymanski said that the main technical hurdle to implementing Wi-Fi 6E will be new radios, but that his company is among those that has already been designing and building compatible silicon.

“I expect that the FCC will provide guidance on how to certify devices in the next few months,” he said. “I expect product available in the US in the late fall before the holidays.”

Enterprise uptake will likely have to wait until compatible smartphones, laptops and the like are on shelves because existing Wi-Fi 6 cliets won’t be able to take advantage of the new 6Ghz spectrum.

New access points are likely to have three radios in them, as opposed to the usual two, noted senior vice president of Ruckus Wireless and cloud at Commscope Bart Giordano. One each for the existing 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands, and a third for 6Ghz.

“Antennas will be very similar because these spectrums sit next to one another,” he said, “but there’s specific tunings you have to do.”

The driving force behind the spectrum expansion is the bottomless demand for capacity caused by the increasing use of wireless just about everywhere. The FCC’s announcement cites projections from Cisco that say

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