Five billion people access the internet globally – almost all through a wireless connection. Relied upon by both consumers and enterprises alike, Wi-Fi has become one of the primary vehicles for delivering that connectivity.
In recent years, Wi-Fi’s ubiquity has become a challenge, however. Given that Wi-Fi devices operate in unlicensed spectrum bands, which have become increasingly congested as Wi-Fi usage has grown, regulators worldwide are working hard to make more unlicensed spectrum available. The 6 GHz band has been chosen by countries around the world to facilitate the introduction of the latest Wi-Fi standard, known as Wi-Fi 6E, which will increase bandwidth and reduce latency in support of a wide range of consumer and enterprise use cases. Wi-Fi 6E devices that operate above 30 dBm EIRP or outdoors will connect to an Automated Frequency Coordination (AFC) system to ensure the 6 GHz channels they use are available.
A few weeks ago, Federated Wireless, together with our partner Aruba, a Hewlett Packard Enterprise company, successfully demonstrated the world’s first end-to-end AFC system using Wi-Fi 6E standard power access points for CITC, the telecommunications regulatory authority in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Given the obvious parallels between the U.S. 3.5 GHz CBRS band and the introduction of unlicensed Wi-Fi devices to the 6 GHz band on a shared basis, Federated Wireless was eager to lend our expertise with automated shared spectrum access solutions to this new challenge. Last October, we announced our worldwide partnership with Aruba to use our AFC system with their outdoor and standard power Wi-Fi 6E access points, enabling unlicensed access to hundreds of additional megahertz of spectrum while simultaneously ensuring that incumbent licensed systems are fully protected.
Following the historic AFC demonstration, CITC noted,
“The demo is an important milestone for adopting smart, data-driven spectrum management in Saudi Arabia as well as expanding the capabilities of Wi-Fi 6E to enable the full realization of the potential of Wi-Fi technologies while protecting existing users in the band, in addition to expanding collaboration between the commission and its global partners.”
Increasing the amount of spectrum available for next generation Wi-Fi 6E devices will have an enormous impact on a wide range of enterprise verticals, government agencies, and military services that need reliable, affordable high-speed connectivity. With the opening of the 6 GHz band, the speeds that can be achieved using standard power Wi-Fi 6E will unlock use cases that allow for further digital innovation across multiple industries. Through the joint demonstration in Saudi Arabia with Aruba, we were able to show in real-time Wi-Fi 6E standard power speeds well above 1 Gbps – in some cases above 5.5 Gbps.
“This world first demonstration of AFC-coordinated higher power Wi-Fi 6E operation in Riyadh was a direct result of the close collaboration between Federated Wireless and Aruba.” said Chuck Lukaszewski, Aruba’s Wireless Chief Technology Officer. “The partners continue to advance the state of the art in Wi-Fi and dynamic spectrum access, and we are just scratching the surface on what the intersection of the innovations in these disciplines will unlock.”
In addition to showcasing the remarkable speeds achievable with Wi-Fi 6E, the demonstration to CITC proved that automated dynamic spectrum sharing systems can fully protect incumbent systems while also opening wide swaths of spectrum for new services. The Federated Wireless AFC provides Wi-Fi 6E access points with channel availability options, ensuring incumbent point-to-point microwave links licensed by CITC to operate in the 6 GHz band in the Riyadh area do not receive interference – a critical component of the shared access framework adopted by CITC and other regulators making the 6 GHz band available for standard power and outdoor unlicensed operations.
From Saudi Arabia to the Rest of the World
Standard power and outdoor devices will be vital to achieving connectivity goals with a 6 GHz spectrum. The Dynamic Spectrum Alliance (DSA) has noted that in certain economies, unlicensed access to spectrum at 6 GHz can have an immediate and robust impact. In a recent study published by DSA, Indonesia has the potential to add over $100 billion to their economy, and the same growth would also be seen in African countries such as Nigeria, Kenya, and South Africa.
Innovation, Science, and Economic Development Canada (ISED), Canada’s telecommunications regulator, has also adopted rules that enable AFC systems to manage access to the 6 GHz band for standard power and outdoor devices. In Canada, 950 MHz will be available for standard power devices. ISED noted in their decision, “Canadians demand more and have relied more on their wireless services to stay connected.” This is true of Canadians as well as people all across the world. The digital revolution has made access to connectivity crucial – enabling virtual learning, work from home, and high bandwidth home video streaming platforms.
Brazil is another important country in the process of adopting rules for standard power and outdoor unlicensed device access to 6 GHz. In early August, Brazil’s telecommunications authority, ANATEL, met with 6 GHz industry leaders in Silicon Valley to discuss how standard power Wi-Fi 6E equipment, along with AFC systems, could access the 6 GHz band in Brazil. ANATEL and DSA recently held a technical workshop on Wi-FI 6E standard power devices and AFC systems in an effort to accelerate the introduction of Wi-Fi 6E.
“We are very pleased to see the engagement from ANATEL on improving opportunities for people and businesses across Brazil, through innovative technologies such as Wi-Fi 6E.” says Martha Suarez, President of DSA. After their decision to enable unlicensed access to the entire 6 GHz band for Low Power indoor and very Low Power operations, ANATEL is considering the use of standard power devices under the control of AFC Systems. Users will be able to enjoy new outdoor applications, and this will have an important impact on broadband connectivity, especially for those that are still unserved or underserved. At DSA, we are excited to see this important international momentum and we are ready to continue working with national regulatory authorities all around the world”.
The European Communications Office has tasked Working Group SE45 to study and create standards for WAS/RLAN access in the 5925-6425MHz frequency band. The actions taken by this group will be key to Europe’s adoption of standard power RLAN devices in the 6 GHz band.
Many other Asian, Middle Eastern and African countries are similarly engaged in the effort to bring standard power devices to their regions.
Federated Wireless is excited to bring our shared spectrum expertise to the world while supporting the next generation of Wi-Fi equipment and services. While Saudi Arabia is the first in the MEA region to make 6 GHz for unlicensed devices a reality, it certainly won’t be the last. We look forward to partnering with more countries as they get ready to launch Wi-Fi 6E.