In October of 2021, we published our findings on the current and future usage of the radio spectrum. Our research revealed that Wi-Fi traffic dramatically increased in the second half of 2021 – and is poised to double every three years.

To keep pace with the expected quality of service for entertainment, remote work, telehealth, and distance learning, we concluded that the 6GHz Wi-Fi spectrum will be utilized in North America. Although the need for additional spectrum in Europe trails North America by six to 12 months, demand is still pushing beyond the limits of Wi-Fi networks across the globe.

The Wi-Fi Alliance received US regulatory approval (FCC) to open up the 6GHz band for unlicensed Wi-Fi broadcasting in 2020 and the process for certifying devices for Wi-Fi 6E began just recently. WiFi 6E is an extension of WiFi 6, utilizing the same 802.11ax standard, but working on an extended spectrum.

As consumers start to use Wi-Fi 6E devices, we are ensuring that ASSIA CloudCheck supports 6GHz in the same way it supports 2.4 and 5GHz bands. In January 2021, we added support for the 6GHz band. For example, ISPs that use our software can now take advantage of data visibility and diagnostics from customer premise equipment (CPE) in the 6GHz band. We plan to add proactive optimization capabilities for subscriber Wi-Fi networks in future releases.

What does this mean for ISPs and the customers that they serve? Read on to learn more about how consumers can leverage this expanded network standard and how we support it.

ASSIA researched Wi-Fi usage in 2021

Last year, we conducted extensive research on the state of Wi-Fi. We leveraged anonymized data from CloudCheck that we gather globally from internet-access links, which are processed by our systems and used by our customers: 40 tier-1 ISPs representing approximately 100 million subscriber homes. The data largely emanates from access networks – both broadband to the home and Wi-Fi in the home.

The Dynamic Spectrum Alliance (DSA) requested that we formulate a single metric to help regulators and other stakeholders determine whether an additional spectrum is necessary. Whereby, we developed an “SNS” score, which is a single metric with values between 0 and 1; 0 indicates the best case scenario (no spectrum needed) and 1 indicates that spectrum is an immediate need. This metric combines measures of traffic volume, latency, interference, and congestion.

Our research concluded that Wi-Fi productivity would be negatively impacted in 12 months from the time of the study and that the SNS rises 25% to 40% annually. This was a clear call to action to regulators across the globe to open unlicensed use of the 6GHz band and to allow the certification processes of devices.

6GHz band availability across the globe

In North America, until 2020 the 6GHz band was set aside for systems such as licensed fixed satellite systems, emergency broadcasts, and point-to-point microwave transmissions. In April of 2020, the FCC expanded unlicensed broadband operations into the 6GHz band in an “effort to create an opportunity for innovators to provide new and advanced services.” In December of 2022, the U.S. Court of Appeals affirmed the FCC granted authority to allow unlicensed wireless devices, such as routers, laptops, and mobile devices to operate in the 6GHz band.

Outside of North America, the UK, Chile, South Korea, United Arab Emirates, and others have approved opening up the 6GHz band fully or partially. We expect additional countries to follow suit.

Wi-Fi 6E devices are rolled out to consumers

Devices that support Wi-Fi 6E are capable of operating in 6GHz, and this gives these devices access to an additional seven 160MHz channels or fourteen 80MHz channels. As a result, consumers benefit from lower latency, additional capacity, and improved performance due to less network congestion and interference in these channels.

According to Wi-Fi NOW, at the end of 2021, 160 Wi-Fi devices and routers support Wi-Fi 6E technology and the number is closing in on 200 different types and models. But, these devices are just hitting the market and come with a high early-adopter cost.

In the near term, the latest mesh system CPE can use the 6GHz band for the backhaul on extenders in a multi-AP environment. By configuring the backhaul, but allowing devices to use the 5GHz fronthaul, consumers could see the same performance as a wired backhaul because the 6GHz band is less cluttered.

  • This has several advantages over using a 5GHz backhaul:
  • It uses the less cluttered 6GHz band.
  • It uses wider channels with higher throughput.
  • It leaves the more congested 5GHz band for fronthaul communication and avoids creating additional interference for backhaul transmission in that band.

Nonetheless, the number of stations globally that support 6GHz is still limited. In a perfect world, where stations, gateways, and extenders support the 6GHz band, the effective throughput will increase, which results in better performance throughout homes. In fact, a consumer could see improved bandwidth with a channel that is twice as wide for their Wi-Fi 6-compatible devices.

¹ FCC, FCC Opens 6 GHz Band to Wi-Fi and Other Unlicensed Uses,
² National Law Review, D.C. Circuit Allows FCC To Open 6 GHz Band For Unlicensed Use,
³ Wi-Fi NOW, Number of Wi-Fi 6E-capable devices and routers closing in on 200 types and models,

In conclusion

We are excited to see that the call-to-action to regulators has helped to open the 6GHz spectrum for expanded unlicensed use across the globe, and are thrilled to go to market with new features of CloudCheck alongside new CPEs and expanded spectrum usage. We look forward to helping ISPs better serve their customers as new devices, equipment and 6GHz spectrum become ubiquitous. Feel free to reach out if you have questions or would like to learn more about CloudCheck’s new capabilities.

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