The 6 GHz band is on an excellent course to change into the most recent and, in lots of international locations, the most important unlicensed band out there, giving Wi-Fi and different applied sciences similar to 5G NR-U an unprecedented spectrum base for growth.
After the discharge of the 6 GHz band for unlicensed use in April within the U.S., the U.K. and South Korea have additionally opened the band. Many different international locations are working in the direction of this, with Europe anticipated to open the band within the coming spring and Brazil main the efforts in Latin America.
Why ought to we care?
What’s most notable in regards to the 6 GHz band is that with its 1,200 MHz it’s the largest allocation of unlicensed spectrum within the U.S. and South Korea, (within the U.Okay. and Europe the band can be a extra modest, however nonetheless substantial 500 MHz).
For context, within the U.S., Wi-Fi at present operates in nearly 800 MHz within the 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz bands; 6 GHz will greater than double the spectrum out there to Wi-Fi to 2,000 MHz. Even making an allowance for some restrictions in the usage of the band to guard entry for incumbent customers primarily in out of doors environments and the transmit energy limitations, it’s nonetheless a variety of new bandwidth out there that’s open not solely to residential and enterprise customers, but additionally to operators. Verizon is likely one of the U.S. operators at present testing 6 GHz gear.
An consideration deficit?
But, surprisingly, the 6 GHz band will not be attracting as a lot consideration as different bands, if we have been to guage by Google search statistics. It could be that that is nonetheless fairly new and industrial merchandise have been introduced and can be out there in a matter of months, however they don’t seem to be but right here. However then the hype on 5G began properly earlier than we even knew what it was about – and definitely earlier than it turned a industrial actuality.
I’d enterprise that the decrease media noise and search exercise could also be as a consequence of the truth that we’ve got an excellent understanding of what it means to have a brand new unlicensed band and the way industrial deployments will occur: progressively as gear turns into out there, incrementally added to increase the capability and efficiency of the present infrastructure if utilizing Wi-Fi. 6 GHz could lack the drama of 5G, however this doesn’t diminish the influence that 6 GHz could have throughout the board – from shopper customers, to enterprises and to service suppliers – particularly because it turns into out there in additional international locations.
Do we’d like extra unlicensed spectrum?
After all, extra spectrum is all the time welcome. However do we’d like extra unlicensed spectrum? Ought to the 6 GHz band be allotted, at the least partly, for licensed use? There was a lot debate about this however the determination to open the band solely to unlicensed use is a smart one, particularly in international locations just like the U.S. the place there are already incumbent customers with precedence entry to the band which restrict the management licensees would have on the band.
However extra importantly, we do want extra unlicensed spectrum. Wi-Fi carries nearly 50% of IP site visitors in response to Cisco’s VNI and most of wi-fi entry (in lots of international locations as much as or above 80% of wi-fi site visitors, and that is unlikely to alter over the following few years whilst 5G entry grows), making the unlicensed bands probably the most intensely used.
With the upper site visitors hundreds and reliance in wi-fi entry, the present unlicensed spectrum is now not enough. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, unlicensed entry turned much more treasured to our lives. A lot of the improve in site visitors was over Wi-Fi; (Comcast noticed a 36% improve in Wi-Fi site visitors and a 17% lower in LTE site visitors on Xfinity Cell in Could 2020), not over mobile, as folks spent extra time at house.
Stronger enterprise personal networks
We are able to all use extra bandwidths at house, particularly as wired Ethernet by means of the home goes out of trend and we anticipate all the things in the home to connect to our Wi-Fi wi-fi networks. Nevertheless, enterprises will profit extra instantly from including 6 GHz to their wi-fi networks – both Wi-Fi or, beginning now, CBRS. 6 GHz permits enterprises to run functions that require excessive bandwidth and higher reliability (i.e., much less rivalry and interference) than they will anticipate within the crowded 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz bands.
Equally, in enterprise personal networks 6 GHz goes to be a robust complement to CBRS within the U.S. and localized spectrum allocations in international locations like Germany and the U.Okay. These mid-band channels out there to the enterprises are properly suited to functions that require excessive reliability and management over transmission, however have much less bandwidth (the CBRS band is 150 MHz in comparison with the 1,200 MHz of 6 GHz within the U.S.).
Will 5G NR-U win over Wi-Fi?
We regularly equate unlicensed with Wi-Fi, for the easy motive that it’s ubiquitous in our units and the environment. However unlicensed entry is expertise impartial and different applied sciences (e.g., Bluetooth and even LTE with LAA in cellular operators’ networks) coexist (or compete) with Wi-Fi in unlicensed bands.
With the rising push for 5G NR-U – the 5G for unlicensed bands – Wi-Fi will face a stronger competitors within the 6 GHz band. Not like the two.4 GHz and the 5 GHz, Wi-Fi doesn’t have an present dominant place in 6 GHz. Residential and enterprise customers will have the ability to select between Wi-Fi and 5G with out having to stay to Wi-Fi to help present units.
So, what’s going to folks, enterprises and repair suppliers decide, Wi-Fi – the model of Wi-Fi 6 for the 6 GHz band – or 5G? This can be a important open query for the long run. Wi-Fi and 3GPP applied sciences are converging from a expertise perspective and, whereas they tackle completely different connectivity wants, their efficiency is getting an increasing number of comparable.
Will we finally want two predominant entry applied sciences, or would one be enough and scale back the complexity? As a lot as interoperability and shared entry is efficacious, having two applied sciences provides a component of wholesome competitors and reduces complacency.
Within the brief time period, nonetheless, it’s tough to see how 5G might displace or lower down the function of Wi-Fi in all licensed bands, together with the 6 GHz band. Many individuals could complain about Wi-Fi connectivity, however that’s principally as a consequence of its success: too many individuals use it, and spectrum and infrastructure are restricted sources.
However I nonetheless have but to fulfill anyone that plans to surrender Wi-Fi totally, even when outfitted with the most recent 5G cellphone. The associated fee to transition from Wi-Fi to 5G in unlicensed band within the brief time period is simply too excessive and the efficiency advantages too small to justify a giant market shift to 5G within the brief time period.
There will certainly be use instances for 5G NR-U within the 6 GHz band and we should always anticipate the usage of 5G NR-U to develop with time, particularly in deployments pushed by cellular operators, however it isn’t time but to ditch our Wi-Fi entry factors or to go for a cellphone with out Wi-Fi, if it exists.
However the excellent news is that within the 6 GHz band, there can be room for each applied sciences to develop and combat it out – of their present incarnations, or most definitely of their future ones with 6G and Wi-Fi 7.
Monica Paolini, PhD, is the founder and principal of Senza Fili. She is an knowledgeable in wi-fi applied sciences and has helped shoppers worldwide to grasp new applied sciences and buyer necessities, create and assess monetary fashions, consider marketing strategy alternatives, market their companies and merchandise, and estimate the market measurement and income alternative of recent and established wi-fi applied sciences. You’ll be able to attain her at [email protected]
Trade Voices are opinion columns written by exterior contributors—typically business specialists or analysts—who’re invited to the dialog by FierceWireless workers. They don’t characterize the opinions of FierceWireless.