Industry groups WifiForward and WISPA are excited by the FCC’s recent move to set up spectrum coordination systems for unlicensed operations in the 6 GHz band.
A public notice on automated frequency coordination (AFC) systems was adopted this week ahead of the FCC’s open meeting. It starts the process for authorizing AFC system operators to mitigate interference with incumbents, and it applies to standard power operations in the 6 GHz band. AT&T, meanwhile, recently argued before a U.S. appeals court that low-power unlicensed 6 GHz devices need AFC as well.
Louis Perez, VP of policy for WISPA, issued a statement calling it an important next step in helping members serve rural areas and bridge the digital divide.
“850 megahertz of unlicensed spectrum is an unprecedented amount for standard power outdoor communications,” Perez said. “It will be put to tremendous use, in particular helping WISPA members provide more capacity for their customers, as well as enabling them to connect more Americans in rural and exurban areas to broadband services. We look forward to working closely with the Commission as this process unfolds.”
WISPA also is a member of the WifiForward coalition, which counts major cable operators Charter and Comcast, alongside, Amazon, Google, Microsoft, and others among its ranks. WifiForward is looking at Wi-Fi 6E devices – which can tap the 6 GHz band, and new use cases to utilize the recently opened airwaves.
“Implementation of smart AFCs in the 6 GHz band will unlock an untold number of use cases for the next generation of Wi-Fi — from faster stadium connectivity to lower latency Wi-Fi on school buses,” the coalition stated. “Spectrum is a limited resource, so quickly certifying and deploying innovative spectrum-sharing technology like AFC is essential to our wireless future.”
Broadcom, another member of the coalition that has put its support behind the FCC on 6 GHz for unlicensed use, praised the commission and talked up benefits of Wi-Fi 7.
“The FCC’s unanimous and bipartisan decision to begin the Automatic Frequency Coordination (AFC) operator authorization process reflects the importance of enabling 6 GHz standard power Wi-Fi,” stated Chris Szymanski, Director, product marketing, technology strategy at Broadcom. “Standard power Wi-Fi 7 devices that can operate both indoors and outdoors will elevate the user experience with ultra-reliable, low latency and high throughput connectivity.”
The FCC voted unanimously in April 2020 to open up the 6 GHz band to unlicensed users. Broadcom, alongside Cisco and Facebook, launched a group last month within the Telecom Infra Project (TIP) focused on AFC software for 6 GHz Wi-Fi devices.
Even before the 2020 FCC vote was finalized, Federated Wireless indicated it was working to put its learnings from managing spectrum in the shared CBRS band to use for a lighter approach 6 GHz. The vendor already went through the process of FCC authorization as a spectrum access system (SAS) administrator for CBRS, and its AFC for 6 GHz has been in the works for more than two years.