An Unnoticed FCC Wi-Fi Holiday Present

Eric Broockman Chief Technology Officer Published 10 Dec 2019

On December 12th, the FCC has a full agenda. One proposed rule change expected alongside the new C-V2X spectrum (see How Could a New FCC Rule Boost Autonomous Cars?), would add 45 MHz of the 5.9 GHz band into the unlicensed band. This enables WiFi 6 to use the adjacent spectrum to provide a new contiguous 160 MHz wide channel or eight adjacent 20 MHz-wide channels, etc. The new spectrum will be incremental to the proposed 6 GHz spectrum that is anticipated for approval (see The 6 GHz SuperFi-Way).

On the one hand, 45 MHz of the new unlicensed spectrum doesn’t sound like much when compared to 1,200 MHz of the new 6 GHz spectrum. But, the new 6 GHz spectrum, although it will become a WiFi SuperFI-way, also requires a new and incremental radio chip. Though highly costeffective, it will never-the-less cost money. By contrast, this incremental spectrum can be brought to market more quickly without the need for an incremental radio – while at the same time opening up a 160 MHzwide HOV lane for high-speed traffic. Therefore, this channel becomes the default superhighway channel ahead of 6 GHz. 

The new channel will likely be used primarily by enhanced 802.11ax access points. That means access onto and off the air will be highly-efficient, and that multiple streams can be in the air at the same time via beamforming. Here are some thoughts on a variety of ways this spectrum could become useful. 

In a medical setting, one can imagine a mobile X-ray machine that rolls into a patient’s hospital room. The physician may want to share the image from the system with the patient to show more details of the wrist they broke snowboarding in Tahoe. This highspeed channel greatly improves the speed and resolution that can be shared with the patient. 

Gigabit Ethernet has become the ubiquitous cable connecting APs to switches and desktops to the network, etc. One can imagine that with a simple directional antenna, this new HOV lane could be used as a pointtopoint gigabit Ethernet cable from a light pole in a stadium parking lot, or the utility pole in a smart city, to connect back to brick and mortar infrastructure without needing to pull a cable or trench a parking lot. 

With the advent of VR technology, this channel, with the appropriate number of streams, is a great candidate to be the HOV lane for wireless high-resolution VR headsets in both K-12 and higher education. Imagine a student virtually watching a science experiment while it is being conducted. What about a classroom on a virtual tour of the Gettysburg Battlefield with explanations by a variety of experts and overlays of historic photos of Pickett’s Charge virtually rendered across the pastoral scenes of today’s national park? The possibilities for VR really accelerate with the availability of this new HOV lane. 

How about something a bit more esoteric? You buy a 3D printer service that controls your home 3D printer from the cloud. Let’s pretend it requires a lot of throughput and that you are signed up for peak 1 G speeds with your ISP. Voila, now you don’t even have to get online with Amazon – simply fill up your 3D printer, and presto – new Lego kits for your kids from your Lego-as-a-Service. 

Who knows what other cool applications will come along to utilize this new HOV lane? But if history has anything to tell us, new bandwidth always results in new and useful applications. Let’s wait and see what comes next.  

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