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The future of Wi-Fi will be decided on April 23: Here’s why

The Federal Communication Commission (FCC) has put forward a draft order that would allow unlicensed devices to operate in the 6 GHz band, with the decision to be made on April 23. 

The move would bring faster internet to homes and offices, with speeds the Wi-Fi Alliance has previously described as a “necessary complement to delivering 5G”. You’ll be able to tell which devices make use of the speedy 6 GHz band by looking out for the label ‘Wi-Fi 6E’.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai proposed the new rules on Wednesday, which would make 1,200 MHz of the spectrum available for unlicensed use. The idea is to protect licensed uses and to create an environment in which both licensed and unlicensed operations can thrive throughout the band.

The draft order would authorise two types of unlicensed operations – standard-power operations in 850 MHz of the band and indoor low-power across the full 1,200 MHz available. Standard-power access points would automatically be stopped from operating anywhere they could cause interference in important services.

A Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking additionally notes that very low-power devices might be permitted to operate across the 6 GHz band, to support high data rate applications such as wearables, augmented reality devices and virtual reality devices.

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“From Wi-Fi routers to home appliances, Americans’ everyday use of devices that connect to the Internet over unlicensed spectrum has exploded”, said Chairman Pai.

“That trend will only continue. Cisco projects that nearly 60% of global mobile data traffic will be off-loaded to Wi-Fi by 2022. To accommodate that increase in Wi-Fi demand, the FCC is aiming to increase the supply of Wi-Fi spectrum with our boldest initiative yet: making the entire 6 GHz band available for unlicensed use.

“By doing this, we would effectively increase the amount of spectrum available for Wi-Fi almost by a factor of five. This would be a huge benefit to consumers and innovators across the nation. It would be another step toward increasing the capacity of our country’s networks. And it would help advance even further our leadership in next generation wireless technologies, including 5G”.

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The Wi-Fi Alliance has shown its own support for the potential FCC ruling. The non-profit praised Chairman Pai’s decision, predicting that the draft will “sustain America’s technological leadership, maximise public benefit of the 6 GHz spectrum resource, and unleash the power of ubiquitous W-Fi connectivity”.

The FCC will vote on the new rules for the 6 GHz band at its Open Meeting just under three weeks from now on April 23.

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