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‘Push the Boundaries’

Consumers Won’t Need to Wait Long for Wi-Fi 6 Devices, Pai Tells Wi-Fi Alliance

The “consumer-facing pop” for Wi-Fi 6 device introductions will be “relatively short term,” perhaps even in time for the 2020 holiday season, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai told the Wi-Fi Alliance’s virtual membership meeting Tuesday. “This is not a case in which a year-one decision may yield results in a decade.”

The new standard has already started rolling out, said Pai. It will be more than 2.5 times faster than current Wi-Fi and “will offer better performance for connected devices,” he said. “I expect entrepreneurs to use this band to push the boundaries of what consumers think is possible with applications and services.” Qualcomm launched a flagship portfolio of mobile connectivity systems last month designed for the fast connection speeds made possible by Wi-Fi 6 and audio advances in Bluetooth 5.2 (see 2005280036).

Wi-Fi 6 is “such a big deal” partly because Wi-Fi “has become such a big deal,” said Pai. It carries more than half the internet’s overall traffic, he said. “Offloading mobile data traffic to Wi-Fi is vital to keeping our cellular networks from being overwhelmed.”

The COVID-19 pandemic “has really amplified how indispensable Wi-Fi has become in our lives,” said Pai. “If you have a family like mine, you’ve got two parents who may be on a connected device, two kids on a connected device, and maybe even some Wi-Fi connected appliances. That’s a lot of data being transmitted over the unlicensed airwaves.”

Making 1,200 MHz of bandwidth available for unlicensed use is “a once-in-a-generation step to meet this growing demand for Wi-Fi capacity,” said Pai. “Think for a moment about what this will mean for innovation.” Very-low-power devices “could enable a new and innovative generation of personal area network technologies with low latency, high capacity and all-day battery life,” he said.