October 31, 2019

What You Need to Know

As the wireless world embarks on its 20th year of existence, it’s easy to say it has been a great success. Due to that success, Wi-Fi has grown exponentially, and it will only continue to do so. According to Cisco VNI, “by 2022, Wi-Fi will carry 51% of global IP traffic…with the total number of Wi-Fi hotspots expected to reach 549 million.” With that comes a need for better-performing Wi-Fi and more spectrum, thus the FCC will be allocating between 800 to 1,200 MHz of spectrum to Wi-Fi in the 6 Gigahertz (GHz) range. Doing so will allow for new channel sizes of 160 MHz, speeds approaching 9 GB, and will free up additional unlicensed spectrum, helping to bring Wi-Fi technology into a new era.

Why is more spectrum needed?

Put simply, an additional unlicensed spectrum is necessary in order to continue to deliver reliable, high-performing Wi-Fi to users. The strain on Wi-Fi is becoming more apparent – specifically in high-density device environments such as airports, stadiums, and universities. Ever notice how slow your internet is while at a concert or sporting event? Or how quickly your battery dies while in those environments? Your device is connected on the same access point, sharing the same channel with everyone else. When on the same channel, your device must wait it’s turn to transmit or receive data, causing congestion. The introduction of 6 GHz will alleviate congestion, supporting more users within these dense environments.

What exactly is the 6 GHz band?

In the beginning, Wi-Fi used spectrum in the 2.4 GHz (70 MHz) band range, which is still used by devices such as cordless phones and Bluetooth devices. In 1997, 5 GHz (500 MHz) spectrum opened, which is the frequency band that Wi-Fi 4 and Wi-Fi 5 must use. Additional access to 5 GHz was made available in 2003, but since then, Wi-Fi usage has grown substantially, and all of the global traffic is crowded within those bands. Freeing up the 6 GHz (1,200 MHz) frequency band for Wi-Fi, and nearly doubling the frequencies currently available, will ensure future applications and networks have the wireless capabilities necessary to deliver the connectivity users expect.

6 GHz & Wi-Fi 6

Although the 6 GHz band and the new 802.11ax standard, also known as Wi-Fi 6, are different and separate, they are interconnected topics, as Wi-Fi 6 devices are the only devices permitted in the 6 GHz band. If you haven’t head, Wi-Fi 6 is the latest and greatest Wi-Fi standard that will deliver better-performing wireless connectivity. The 802.11ax standard supports speeds up to 10 Gbps, which is 10 times faster than the current 802.11ac standard, or Wi-Fi 5. Thanks to the 6 GHz band, Wi-Fi 6 devices will be able to achieve the full potential they are designed for. The extra bandwidth provided by 6 GHz makes these new speeds possible. The size of the Wi-Fi channel needs to be 160 MHz in order to achieve the fastest speeds, however the current 5 GHz band is unable to reach those speeds due to the lack of the radio frequency (RF) spectrum needed to use 160 MHz channels. Thus, the new green-field spectrum provided in the 6 GHz band will allow for real world use of larger channels to the maximum throughput in Wi-Fi 6. Additionally, without interference from Wi-Fi 4 and Wi-Fi 5 devices in the 6 GHz band, throughput will greatly improve, latency will diminish, and dense environments will be no match for Wi-Fi 6 devices.

Ultimately, opening up 6 GHz frequency bands will help support a new era of growth in the Wi-Fi industry. With Wi-Fi demands continuing to grow each day, it’s important to be on the forefront of both Wi-Fi 6 and the 6 GHz band, as they are both quickly approaching. If you’re interested in learning more about 6 GHz and the future demands of Wi-Fi, BIG Wireless is here to help.