Wi-Fi 6E will bring us into the future

Thank you, FCC! Yesterday you took a wise decision that will bring enormous opportunities for our industry:

  • In total an additional 1200 MHz of spectrum will now be available to operators and Wi-Fi users to benefit from. The total available spectrum for Wi-Fi has now tripled!
  • Ensuring that Wi-Fi remains an important technology moving forward with ever increasing capacity to support new types of devices and complement future 5G services.

For those of you who wants more details why this is such an important move, please continue to read.

Let’s first recap why the new Wi-Fi 6 standard, not to be confused with the 6 GHz band, is such a fundamental change in Wi-Fi.

The Wi-Fi we are all used to is behaving like when you are at a cocktail party. If you talk over each other, the polite thing to do is to be quiet and try again when the “air is free”. That works if you are just a few people in the room. But what if you are several hundreds of people? That is before Wi-Fi 6 enters the stage.

The new Wi-Fi 6 standard has the same scheduling mechanisms as cellular (OFDMA) and is behaving more like a choir. Here is a conductor deciding who will sing and when. Sometimes it is a single person performing solo and sometimes a few people singing together. The conductor optimizes the “use of the air” into a perfect harmony.

Wi-Fi 6 excels in large-scale Wi-Fi deployments in dense areas such as shopping malls, stadiums, transportation and enterprise environments. That is, in typical use cases for Service Provider Wi-Fi.

At Aptilo, we have never understood the fight between Wi-Fi and Cellular 3GPP networks. For us, they have a symbiotic relationship. Wi-Fi is a perfect complement to Cellular for indoor coverage and enhanced capacity. Cellular is a perfect complement to Wi-Fi to provide mobility. Wi-Fi 6 (802.1ax) is fast becoming mainstream and with it the arguments against using Wi-Fi among the 3GPP advocates are diminishing. Wi-Fi is no longer “best effort” and 3GPP is now even considering unlicensed spectrum as an option to be utilized.

All this vouches for a continued growth in Service Provider Wi-Fi with a second powerful wave of mobile data offloading deployments. According to Cisco, Wi-Fi offloading will remain very high and almost 60% of the global mobile data traffic will be offloaded to Wi-Fi by 2022, with even higher figures in many markets.

But for this to be workable also long after 2022 when 5G has become mainstream, we need much more capacity and spectrum for Wi-Fi. This is why FCC’s announcement today is such an enormous deal!

Wider Lanes into the Future with Wi-Fi 6E

Wi-Fi 6E, that is Wi-Fi 6 running in the 6 GHz band, brings precisely this added capacity that the industry needs to ensure that Wi-Fi is remaining cellular’s best friend also in a 5G context. And we need it in our future homes to provide multi-gigabit speeds for 8K video streams, augmented and virtual reality, etc.

Thanks to FCC’s wise decision today, Wi-Fi will now get almost 2.5 times more spectrum (1200 MHz) than all previous Wi-Fi bands (2.4 GHz and 5GHz) put together. 14 new 80 MHz channels or 7 new 160 MHz channels will become available which will bring us the performance that we will need.

Since this new 6 GHz band only will be available for Wi-Fi 6 equipment, manufacturers can optimize their products for this new state-of-the-art technology without considering legacy technologies.

The future is bright for the Wi-Fi industry! We should expect the first certified Wi-Fi 6E equipment already early 2021.

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