Wi-Fi 6E trials in the 6GHz band: the results are in

via Flickr © Electronic_Frontier_Foundation (CC BY 2.0)

via Flickr © Electronic_Frontier_Foundation (CC BY 2.0)

  • And they show Wi-Fi is destined to make a solid contribution to next generation networking (says the Wireless Broadband Alliance).
  • The San Jose trials measured speeds of 2Gbps and consistent two-millisecond low-latency
  • This, it’s claimed, puts the technology on a par with 5G 

The Wireless Broadband Alliance (WBA) today announced the results of the first phase of Wi-Fi 6E trials enabled by WBA member companies, Broadcom and Intel. It claims the results show that use of the 6GHz band could provide more capacity than all the other Wi-Fi bands put together. 

Not only that, but it’s claimed it could deliver connections with speeds equivalent to those expected with today’s 5G mobile networks. The implication being that Wi-Fi in the 5.925-7.125 (6 GHz) band will not only be a boon for Wi-Fi’s traditional users, but would make it a very useful companion for 5G as it could be economically deployed inside buildings and other places where telco-delivered 5G can’t go (due to walls and such). 

It could then hand over the signal to outdoor 5G services to complete the journey to and from the telco core (or telco edge).

While the mood music today is all about 5G openness and making use of Wi-Fi as part of the mix, its role remains a sensitive issue. The problem that many telco people wrestle with is that Wi-Fi data could just as easily be forwarded via fibre to the telco (or other operator) edge, cutting out 5G altogether. Many would therefore prefer that 5G-deploying CSPs put a major effort into spreading small cell 5G to indoor locations to head off high speed Wi-Fi and even displace existing Wi-Fi deployments. 

Now however, Wi-Fi in the 6GHz band looks near certain - lack of interference allowing. The breakthrough for the Wi-Fi community occurred in late 2018 when the FCC released a notice of proposed rulemaking to promote new opportunities for unlicensed use in portions of the 1,200 MHz of spectrum in the 5.925-7.125 (6 GHz) band. That should become a reality in 2020. 

WBA claims the trials prove that  Wi-Fi 6E can also support the low-latency levels required for mobile gaming, virtual and augmented reality (VR/AR) applications, and Industry 4.0 solutions. During the enterprise trials in San Jose, California, speeds of 2Gbps and a consistent two-millisecond low-latency were achieved.

It’s envisaged that the technology will be especially suitable for congested places like subway stations and testing in such crowded environments is on the agenda for the next stage of Wi-Fi 6E trials which are scheduled to take place over the coming months, along with in-home testing with CableLabs, SK Telecom and Transit Wireless.

WBA claims several regulators are working to release 6Ghz spectrum bands for unlicensed use, including FCC in the US, Ofcom in the UK and regulators in the EU, amongst others.  

Wi-Fi 6E is not to be confused with the recently relaunched Wi-Fi 6 which is currently positioned in the 5GHz band. According to Tiago Rodrigues, CEO of the WBA, the Wi-Fi 6 standard and the 6GHz spectrum will work in combination and play a powerful role together.

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