In late 2018, congressional representatives Bob Latta (R-OH) and Jerry McNerney (D-CA) joined together to create the Congressional Wi-Fi Caucus dedicated to addressing important issues shaping the future of Wi-Fi. The bipartisan caucus is the first congressional caucus solely dedicated to Wi-Fi-specific policy issues, providing a forward-thinking forum for legislators to learn about Wi-Fi related issues and to consider solutions.
Since then, in 2020, the FCC voted unanimously to make 1,200 megahertz (MHz) of spectrum in the 6 gigahertz (GHz) band available for unlicensed use in the United States. To put this in perspective, the new 6 GHz spectrum available for Wi-Fi is more than double the current usable frequency space of the 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz channels combined. In anticipation of the availability of this frequency space, the Wi-Fi Alliance announced Wi-Fi 6E as an “extension” for certifying the features and capabilities of Wi-Fi 6 to the 6 GHz band. Wi-Fi 6E is the industry name that identifies Wi-Fi devices that operate in 6 GHz.
I recently participated in a webinar sponsored by WiFiForward, Wi-Fi Alliance, and the Congressional Wi-Fi Caucus for a market update about the enormous potential of Wi-Fi 6E. WiFiForward is a broad-based group of companies, organizations, and public sector institutions working to alleviate the Wi-Fi spectrum crunch and to support making Wi-Fi even better by finding more unlicensed spectrum. The Wi-Fi Alliance is a global, nonprofit industry association of more than 550 member companies devoted to promoting the growth of Wi-Fi. The Wi-Fi Alliance also helps ensure the interoperability of Wi-Fi products by providing certification testing.
I was honored to join the panel alongside Congressmen Bob Latta and Jerry McNerney, as well as public policy and industry thought leaders Kathleen Burke, Kevin Robinson, Scott Stinson, Kristian Stout, and Christopher Szymanski. The event was expertly moderated by Ellen Satterwhite of the Glen Echo Group. You can view the 1-hour webinar below:
From thin air(waves) to streaming: A Wi-Fi 6E market update
I am often fond of saying that Wi-Fi technology is ingrained into our everyday lives. Wi-Fi has become an essential part of our daily worldwide communications culture. For over 20 years, Wi-Fi has provided true wireless mobility and secure connectivity in the enterprise. However, one of the lessons we have learned during the recent pandemic is that companies are changing the way they do business. For example, employees often no longer need to report to an office or campus for a full 5-day work week. Instead, they may prefer to work remotely, either part-time or full-time, but with expectations of the same enterprise Wi-Fi experience. Therefore, the enterprise no longer just resides in a building, but instead, the enterprise is wherever the employees choose to work.
Both Wi-Fi 6 and Wi-Fi 6E are part of a wireless paradigm shift toward what we call Infinitely Distributed Connectivity. Enterprise companies need to connect anybody, anywhere to any other person, device, or application. The new 1200 MHz of spectrum provided by Wi-Fi 6E offers an enhanced user experience in all enterprise verticals, including K-12 and higher education, retail, manufacturing, and healthcare.
In the short-term, we anticipate multiple Wi-Fi use cases in the 6 GHz frequency band. For example, the existing 14 billion Wi-Fi users that operate in the legacy 2.4 and 5 GHz bands can immediately benefit from 6 GHz mesh backhaul capabilities. Additionally, the new Wi-Fi 6E client devices will immediately benefit from the enhanced efficiency and higher bandwidth of the 6 GHz spectrum. We also see value for connecting mission-critical IoT devices, such as healthcare patient monitoring equipment, in this new pristine Wi-Fi environment.
In the long term, we are predicting tremendous development and innovation for higher-bandwidth applications. We are at the beginning of a renaissance of innovation for virtual reality and augmented reality applications that can be used via a Wi-Fi connection. For example, while working remotely, an employee may use an augmented reality application to emulate an enterprise office experience. As a direct result of Wi-Fi 6E, we are poised to see new methods of user engagement that we previously have only seen in science fiction movies.
Consider this to be my first blog about Wi-Fi 6E with many more to follow. On a personal note, I must say that I am very excited about the future of Wi-Fi because of the new availability of the 6 GHz spectrum. Wi-Fi 6E moves us forward with Infinitely Distributed Connectivity for the enterprise.