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'Intense Demand'

FCC's 6 GHz Rules Controversial 13 Months Later

Thirteen months after the FCC approved opening 1.2 GHz in the 6 GHz band for Wi-Fi, disagreements remain, the Federal Communications Bar Association was told during a webinar Monday. It got an update on 5.9 GHz, reallocated partly for Wi-Fi in November (see 2011180043).

The need for Wi-Fi spectrum is exemplified by Samsung’s quick response in delivering the Galaxy S21 Ultra, which uses 6 GHz, in February, after the FCC released technical rules in December, said Chris Szymanski, Broadcom director-product marketing and government affairs. “My customers typically like to get their certification done nine months ahead of time -- it’s complicated,” he said. “They did this in two months. It just kind of shows the intense demand.” Some 40% of the world has opened the whole band or is looking at doing so, Szymanski said. “We’re seeing the rollout so much more rapidly than anything else I’ve experienced.”

Verizon supports reallocating 6 GHz for unlicensed, but the FCC should have required automated frequency control (AFC) for all operations, said Patrick Welsh, director-federal government affairs. “Unfortunately, we think the FCC kind of got it wrong.” Verizon, utilities, public safety and others use the band for “mission critical” backhaul, he said. Unless all 6 GHz access points are registered with an AFC, “there’s no way to identify who’s interfering and then stopping that,” he said. Welsh hopes the FCC addresses that complaint, made by CTIA in a reconsideration petition (see 2006260066).

The FCC was “very conservative” in how it opened both bands and “the existing rules are more than protective of all the important incumbent use cases,” countered Facebook’s Priscilla Argeris. Facebook considers the bands critical to mobile virtual and augmented reality, she said.

The 5.9 and 6 GHz bands are adjacent to other Wi-Fi bands and helped address a need for unlicensed spectrum, said Alex Roytblat, Wi-Fi Alliance vice president-regulatory affairs. Six gigahertz is unique in that it’s “universally harmonized," Roytblat said. “Almost every week” another country decides to “follow the FCC’s lead” and approve similar rules, he said.

The rules aren’t the same everywhere, Welsh said, noting the next World Radiocommunication Conference includes a 6 GHz item. Parts of Africa and Europe are looking at selling half the band for licensed use and China is licensing the entire band, he said. “It’s a little early to say this is an inevitable trend,” he said.

Szymanski questioned whether licensed use of the band will be widespread enough to create a viable market. Broadcom has to sell 500 million-700 million chips to consider it a success, he said. “You’re not going to get there when you have small pockets” of adoption, he said: “China is a huge market, but for manufacturers to address that, they’re going to need some scale.”

Speakers said it’s unclear when AFC-controlled 6 GHz devices will be available. The FCC still has to issue a notice on public testing, which is likely at the end of this year or in early 2022, Roytblat said.