When Marconi invented the radio all the way back in the 1890s, I doubt that he foresaw just how much stuff would fly through the airwaves less than a century and a half later. I mean, it’s gotten to the point where are More Wi-Fi networks operating in the average apartment building then FM radio stations to listen to.
So, it shouldn’t be surprising then, that recently the United States FCC opened up the 6 gigahertz band for use. Which frees up another 1200 megahertz wide chunk of the spectrum. To enable higher speeds and relieve some of that congestion. The Kicker is that they want to approve unlicensed and free use of that band. But here’s the thing. The 6 gigahertz band hasn’t been just lying around waiting for just anyone to come along and use it.
Large cell phone carriers in the US, use 6 gigahertz for back haul. Which is communication between points in their own system rather than directly to consumers. Water and power utilities across the country have said that they also use 6 gigahertz for their own operations. And they don’t want a bunch of new traffic coming along and mucking it up.
However, this opposition to the plan from utilities and cell providers is being met on the other side by an assortment of strange bedfellows. Including everyone from Google to HP to Broadcom who’s known for manufacturing networking chips.
So then, what’s in it for those guys? Well, the cell industry wants the FCC to auction off slices of the six gigahertz band so they can bid on them and reserve them for their own use.
So then, by comparison, obviously these tech companies would much rather be able to use this piece of spectrum for their own gadgets. Without having to bid against heavy hitters. Like Verizon and AT&T. You see many of these companies envision being able to use the space to enable high-speed but short range communications. For things like wireless virtual reality, smart vehicle features in your car, faster phone tethering or casting 4k video to your TV.
That all sounds awesome. So the thing is because higher frequencies can carry more data, but have a shorter range. 6 gigahertz has a lot of potential. Not just for that stuff, but also for providing current and future IOT devices within the same room with the bandwidth That they need. But, would it play nicely with the 6 gigahertz signals that the cellular industry is so worried about? Well, although there is a proposed scheme called Automated Frequency Coordination or AFC. Which could automatically determine if there’s a conflicting frequency in the area and make the adjustments. It would involve having to put Wireless products in a database which would be a Pain.
So, instead, tech companies want to simply keep complicated licensing and database requirements out of the picture entirely. And instead just ensure that their devices, just don’t use a lot of power.
The nice thing here is that many devices like smartphones for example. Already operate well below what’s considered normal power levels according to the Wi-Fi spec. Which should keep similarly designed future devices from interfering with any existing 6 gigahertz networks. Which side is Going to win out, and what does this mean for you, the consumer? Well, right now the FCC has given no kind of sign that it will back off its plans to open up the 6 gigahertz band. And if they proceed as expected, devices that could provide you with one or even two gigabits of throughput per second, could hit the market sooner rather than later. Meaning you might not have to wait terribly long for that smart fridge to become useful.