FCC boosts Wi-Fi speeds by opening 6 GHz spectrum

By

6 GHz Wi-Fi is coming to many devices. Eventually.
Lots of computers in a small space is a scenario where 6 GHz Wi-Fi is expected to shine.
Photo: Pixels CC

The FCC on Thursday approved an expansion of Wi-Fi to the 6GHz band. This adds almost five times the bandwidth to the short-range wireless networking standard. It should bring Wi-Fi connections that are up to 2.5 times faster, with less interference from nearby computers.

Thursday’s FCC vote on this expansion was unanimous, and the change has strong industry support.

“By making 6 GHz available for unlicensed use, the FCC has secured the future of Wi-Fi. 6 GHz access is a seminal development for connectivity and provides Wi-Fi more capacity to deliver groundbreaking use cases and to unlock novel new Wi-Fi applications,” said Edgar Figueroa, president and CEO, Wi-Fi Alliance, a trade group of companies that make wireless equipment, in a statement.

It’ll bring benefits to Wi-Fi use indoors and outdoors, at home, on-the-go, in densely populated areas, and large public venues, according to the Alliance. Early tests show that wireless connections over 6 GHz offer significantly more throughput, as well as lower latency. However, this part of the spectrum offers shorter range.

Get ready for Wi-Fi 6E networking equipment

Members of the Wi-Fi Alliance have been anticipating the additional spectrum for months. While certification for Wi-Fi 6E – the brand name for Wi-Fi 6 devices operating in 6 GHz – won’t be available until early 2021, the first products that use it will be released before the end of this year.

And the trade group anticipates more than 316 million Wi-Fi 6E devices will enter the market in 2021.

Broadcom, Intel, Belkin, Netgear, Qualcomm and more have all stepped forward to announce plans to adopt Wi-Fi 6E.

Making room for Wi-Fi in the 6 GHz spectrum

Wi-Fi currently uses 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz. But companies now have permission to make wireless networking equipment that uses the whole 6 GHz band, an increase of 1,200 megahertz of spectrum.

The 6 GHz band previously was reserved for utilities, public safety and wireless backhaul. New consumer networking equipment will have to include an automated frequency coordination system to prevent interference with these services, according to the FCC.