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Wi-Fi is “the” unlicensed spectrum expertise…and it wants entry to extra unlicensed spectrum!


The Preamble

For the final 5 years, I’ve spent appreciable time turning my thoughts to the problems of fine and dangerous coexistence between Wi-Fi and competing applied sciences, reminiscent of LTE‑U, LAA, and NR‑U, in unlicensed spectrum. I’ve undertaken my pondering within the context of discussions and debates about coexistence in a number of boards, together with IEEE 802, 3GPP, ETSI BRAN, and the Wi-Fi Alliance. I even ended up because the Chair of the IEEE 802.11 Coexistence Standing Committee.

Just lately (June 2022), I used to be requested to summarize the state of play in an IEEE 802 Tech Discuss and my conclusions about what all this dialogue means in follow. The slides of this speak can be found, as is a recording. This weblog is a written model of the IEEE 802 Tech Discuss, higher suited to those that don’t need to hearken to my dulcet tones for 45 minutes. Even in studying this weblog, you’ve got a selection; you possibly can cease on the Govt Abstract, or you possibly can wade by eleven pages of detailed dialogue… get pleasure from!

The quick model: The Govt Abstract

Within the not-so-distant previous, communications providers had been costly, difficult & monopolized by a small variety of service suppliers. Luckily, expertise has now enabled a brand new world of communications that’s extremely aggressive and really purposeful.

Whereas this modification has been pushed by many elements, the emergence of unlicensed spectrum was a key enabler. Wi-Fi, as essentially the most broadly used communications entry resolution, has pushed unlicensed spectrum to meet its potential and to take action in a approach that makes very environment friendly use of spectrum, a scarce and precious neighborhood useful resource. Wi-Fi’s spectrum effectivity is well demonstrated by observing that present use patterns present that Wi-Fi networks carry about twenty instances extra information than mobile networks, regardless of gaining access to roughly the identical quantity of spectrum.

Wi-Fi has enabled anybody, anytime, anyplace to arrange and function a easy, low cost, and versatile wi-fi community of their house or workplace that simply works! This final result was partially achieved by Wi-Fi’s use of a classy range of sharing mechanisms that helped keep away from coexistence chaos in lots of difficult sharing environments.

Wi-Fi’s success in unlicensed spectrum (and the brand new unlicensed spectrum justified by that success) has triggered the mobile neighborhood to suggest new cellular-based applied sciences to be used in unlicensed spectrum, together with LAA and NR‑U. The issue is that these methods solely use a small subset of Wi-Fi’s various and complicated sharing mechanisms, with early deployment measurements displaying poor coexistence with Wi-Fi methods (and possibly between LAA/NR-U methods too). The possible poor coexistence of those mobile applied sciences with Wi-Fi can be a serious financial (and social) downside, given Wi-Fi’s significance to customers and companies and its multi-trillion-dollar world financial worth … yearly!

There could also be nothing to fret about if LAA and NR‑U should not broadly deployed, which is a definite chance. If they’re broadly deployed, vital effort shall be required to mitigate the potential antagonistic impression on Wi-Fi’s environment friendly and shared use of unlicensed spectrum as we speak. Apparently, one mechanism to keep away from coexistence points between Wi-Fi and LAA/NR‑U is to allocate 1200 MHz for unlicensed spectrum in order that the totally different applied sciences can extra simply keep away from working in the identical channel. A greater total resolution to maximise shopper profit is to concentrate on utilizing Wi-Fi in unlicensed spectrum & 3GPP’s new NR-based applied sciences in licensed spectrum. This may optimize the usage of each licensed and unlicensed spectrum, avoiding coexistence points without cost!

As regulators seek for essentially the most environment friendly use of spectrum sources, Wi-Fi’s superior sharing traits, widespread adoption, and skill to flexibly meet customers’ wants all stand out as a part of a compelling case to allocate extra unlicensed spectrum, notably within the 6 GHz band.

Key messages

There are a key few messages that I would really like you to remove from this weblog. They’re that:

  • Consumer wants: No matter wi-fi networking options are deployed in licensed or unlicensed spectrum, they have to meet customers’ wants whereas making environment friendly use of spectrum
  • Licensed spectrum:  Unlicensed spectrum (normally utilizing Wi-Fi expertise) is essentially the most environment friendly approach of assembly consumer’s wants in most environments (notably house and enterprise), however licensed spectrum (utilizing mobile expertise) can be essential to fulfill consumer’s wants in some environments (notably within the wider space and at larger bodily speeds)
  • 6 GHz band is required:  With the introduction of broadband connections that present greater than 10 Gb/s, the complete 1200 MHz of the 6 GHz band is urgently required in order that Wi-Fi can proceed to distribute all the information delivered to end-users and allow new purposes together with Digital Actuality and automation.
  • Deal with Wi-Fi:  Whereas any expertise is allowed to make use of unlicensed spectrum, a concentrate on Wi-Fi is fascinating to keep away from coexistence points that may come up from the usage of unsophisticated sharing mechanisms by applied sciences like LAA and NR-U.

If purchase into my conclusions then I recommend you cease studying now to save lots of 10 minutes of your life. In the event you disagree with my conclusions then I’d ask you to dive into the element articulated in the remainder of this weblog. In the event you nonetheless disagree please be at liberty to contact me to begin a dialogue.

The lengthy model: Deal with Wi-Fi in expanded unlicensed spectrum in 6 GHz band!

Communications was costly, difficult & monopolized

One doesn’t have to go very far again in historical past to a time when most technique of communication throughout any distance had been costly, difficult, and relied on providers sometimes supplied by monopolistic service suppliers (typically government-owned).

I recall phoning my grandparents in South Africa from Australia every Christmas once I was a baby (OK, it was half a century in the past), the place we needed to ebook days prematurely for a 3-minute name, after which spent many of the name speaking about how costly it was. Even a couple of years in the past, many telecommunications clients had been charged huge sums by the minute (or byte), in a way that had little or no to do with precise fastened and variable prices.

Communications is now extremely aggressive and purposeful

The telecommunications world has modified, and for the higher in so many dimensions. Competitors and expertise have helped drive the marginal value of voice and information communications (together with POTS-like, e-mail, and Webex-like providers) throughout the globe to nearly zero. For many individuals, the prices are zero, offset towards revenues to suppliers from promoting or different related enterprise fashions.

The complexity of worldwide communications has additionally considerably decreased, though I believe my dad and mom and mother-in-law may disagree. The truth is that the providers themselves are much less advanced, however the decisions they supply have massively expanded, typically making every little thing appear extra difficult.  They’re definitely extra purposeful.

Whereas conventional service suppliers nonetheless dominate the supply of facilities-based mobile providers, they face way more competitors within the provision of broadband providers to customers and enterprises.  In fact, the will for monopolistic energy by no means goes away, with a brand new technology of monopolistic wan-a-bees working larger up the worth chain.

Unlicensed spectrum is a key driver of the trendy communications

There are various causes for this new world of communications, relying on what a part of the ecosystem one focuses on. Definitely, the silicon-based expertise revolution that actually took off within the Nineteen Eighties has had a serious impression on the ecosystem.

Nonetheless, with my Wi-Fi bias, I’m going to assert that one thing that began in 1987 was simply as essential. 1987 was the yr that the FCC within the US began an experiment that opened the two.4 GHz junk band for unlicensed use. Many older readers might recall the times when establishing house or enterprise networks concerned working many meters of cable between routers, desktop computer systems, and different linked gadgets.  This new spectrum, together with Wi-Fi expertise, enabled anybody, anytime, anyplace to arrange and function a easy, low cost, and versatile wi-fi community of their house or workplace that simply labored, utilizing an incredible and nonetheless rising number of gadgets & purposes. The FCC experiment was so profitable that it has now unfold globally, additionally increasing into elements of the 5 GHz band and (hopefully) all of the 6 GHz band.

Wi-Fi is essentially the most profitable expertise in unlicensed spectrum

The success of Wi-Fi will be measured in varied methods. A yr or so in the past, the Wi-Fi Alliance commissioned severe economists to estimate the financial worth of Wi-Fi in particular international locations and globally. They decided the financial worth of Wi-Fi was 3.3 trillion {dollars} every year in 2021, more likely to develop to 4.9 trillion {dollars} every year in 2025.

Personally, as a measure of Wi-Fi’s success, I’ve all the time favored the surveys undertaken by the Wi-Fi Alliance once I was the Chairman of the Board of Administrators greater than ten years in the past. At the moment, it was found individuals would relatively hand over espresso or beer than their Wi-Fi. Espresso and beer are very excessive bars. Nonetheless, this expressed love for Wi-Fi makes excellent sense when one considers that about 20 instances extra information site visitors as we speak goes throughout Wi-Fi networks in comparison with conventional cellular-based networks, which themselves are a significant element of the trendy communications revolution. This bias in the direction of Wi-Fi happens regardless of Wi-Fi gaining access to about the identical quantity of low and mid-band spectrum as the assorted mobile applied sciences.

Avoiding coexistence chaos

Wi-Fi has sidestepped coexistence chaos in unlicensed spectrum by avoiding different applied sciences, various Wi-Fi on Wi-Fi sharing mechanisms and thru self-interest.

Wi-Fi’s great success highlights an interesting query. Why does the usage of a number of applied sciences (together with Wi-Fi) managed by a large number of unmanaged customers working in the identical spectrum not lead to coexistence chaos? There are three essential solutions from a historic perspective:

  • Completely different channels: Wi-Fi typically doesn’t compete with different applied sciences in the identical channels on the similar time; applied sciences like Bluetooth in 2.4 GHz normally keep away from Wi-Fi by working between & past the same old Wi-Fi channels
  • Various sharing mechanisms: Wi-Fi features a range of sharing mechanisms (e.g., Pay attention Earlier than Discuss, exponential back-off, Preamble Detection, NAV, RTS/CTS, and many others) which might be particularly designed to allow good coexistence between independently managed Wi-Fi networks
  • Self-interest: The IEEE 802.11 Working Group, the Wi-Fi Alliance and the Wi-Fi trade extra typically have a vested curiosity in managing coexistence with the deployed Wi-Fi base as new Wi-Fi generations are specified.

Wi-Fi makes use of a range of sharing mechanisms to advertise coexistence

Wi-Fi expertise was constructed from the very starting to deal with environments the place a number of gadgets with totally different house owners needed to function in the identical channel. There isn’t a excellent resolution to deal with this very troublesome downside. Wi-Fi’s technical resolution is to make use of a range of sharing mechanisms (as famous above), constructed on prime of the fundamental Pay attention Earlier than Discuss (LBT) mechanism.

LBT avoids transmissions in a channel if another person is already utilizing the identical channel close by. This can be a idea that we’re all used to when speaking across the dinner desk; don’t speak if somebody is already speaking (I want my household would comply with this protocol!). It’s not an ideal mechanism as a result of a possible transmitter can solely hear the state of the channel on the transmitter and never the place the transmission might trigger interference. Utilizing the dinner desk analogy once more, the individuals on the two ends of an extended desk may begin speaking as a result of they’ll’t hear anybody else speaking however the individual within the center finally ends up listening to each of them, and so neither of them correctly (that is typically prompted the hidden station downside).

The ability of LBT, as practiced by Wi-Fi, is that doesn’t depend on only a single listening mechanism. A Wi-Fi system defers to different Wi-Fi gadgets at a really low vitality degree when it’s positive the vitality comes from one other Wi-Fi system, by detecting a particular Wi-Fi packet preamble. This is called Preamble Detection and Wi-Fi sometimes makes use of a preamble vitality detection threshold of -82 dBm. A Wi-Fi system additionally defers when it hears vitality with out listening to a preamble. This can be a backup listening mechanism that helps keep away from interfering with different gadgets (utilizing any expertise, together with Wi-Fi), but additionally acknowledges that any transmission made by the Wi-Fi system in such an atmosphere is unlikely to be obtained correctly anyway.

These two listening mechanisms are used to drive a sharing mechanism primarily based on a really previous and well-proven approach referred to as CSMA/CA (Provider Sense A number of Entry with Collision Avoidance). The Wi-Fi model is named EDCA. The concept is that if one other system is transmitting (or one other individual is speaking on the dinner desk) when your system needs to transmit then your system defers for a random interval (that will increase exponentially with every unsuccessful transmission). Once more, that is one thing we’re all used to doing when trying to insert ourselves right into a dialog across the dinner desk (my household makes use of a special approach … they simply shout louder).

However there’s extra. Wi-Fi additionally permits reserving the channel for restricted durations utilizing a particular subject that’s included in Wi-Fi packets (the particular subject is named NAV – or Community Allocation Vector – and is shipped as a part of the MAC packet, for these technically inclined). This avoids the necessity to rely solely on listening, which, as famous earlier, is imperfect. For instance, the NAV reservation approach permits a particular RTS/CTS (Request to Ship/Clear to Ship) mechanism, which helps mitigate the traditional hidden station downside. In our eating room analogy, NAV with RTS/CTS permits the 2 individuals at every finish of our lengthy desk to coordinate after they transmit, despite the fact that they’ll’t hear one another in order that the individual within the center can efficiently obtain from each ends of the desk.

Mobile carriers are actually utilizing Wi-Fi in unlicensed spectrum

The mobile neighborhood has determined that extra unlicensed spectrum for Wi-Fi unlicensed spectrum couldn’t be ignored and left for Wi-Fi to dominate.

Unlicensed spectrum is technically out there to be used by any expertise, so long as it follows primary guidelines set by regulators in varied international locations. Some regulators apply fairly strict and detailed guidelines, whereas others are extra laisse faire. Nonetheless, unlicensed spectrum (particularly the 5 GHz & 6 GHz bands) is usually referred to as “Wi-Fi spectrum” (even by many within the mobile neighborhood) as a result of up till now Wi-Fi has been the principle, and infrequently the one, profitable consumer of this unlicensed spectrum.

Nonetheless, many mobile stakeholders have now determined that entry to unlicensed 5 GHz & 6 GHz bands is a chance too precious (or too low cost) to go away for Wi-Fi. After some false begins, many mobile carriers are actually utilizing Wi-Fi in unlicensed spectrum to dump site visitors. They’re typically utilizing Wi-Fi offload to supply providers in indoor places sometimes inaccessible to mobile providers or simply to keep away from deploying very costly mobile applied sciences.

Some mobile stakeholders are actually discussing utilizing variations of licensed expertise in unlicensed spectrum in its place, regardless of Wi-Fi largely assembly their wants already. One space the place Wi-Fi won’t meet the wants of some mobile stakeholders is that they don’t dominate the possession of the required IPR in the way in which they do for mobile applied sciences. In latest instances, 4 new cellular-related applied sciences have been proposed to make use of unlicensed spectrum:

  • LTE‑U (LTE – Unlicensed) from the LTE‑U Discussion board
  • MulteFire from the MulteFire Alliance
  • LAA (License Assisted Entry) & NR‑U (New Radio – Unlicensed) from 3GPP

The proponents of all 4 applied sciences have asserted wonderous advantages in comparison with Wi-Fi, associated to throughput, latency, and reliability, in addition to integration with licensed applied sciences. The truths of those claims are for dialogue at one other time, though I’ll notice that most of the claims have confirmed to be extra hype relatively than actuality.

The primary two applied sciences are now not being promoted by the mobile trade as a result of they took too lengthy to be specified and launched to the market. Within the case of LTE‑U, a part of the delay was pushed by an issue that arose as a result of LTE‑U was primarily based on a really unusual approach of sharing with different applied sciences. Quite than utilizing a distributed sharing mechanism like Wi-Fi the place everyone seems to be roughly equal, it used a egocentric sharing mechanism whereby the LTE‑U system determined what entry it wished and solely then gave the rest to be used by different applied sciences.

3GPP-defined LAA & NR‑U to share unlicensed spectrum utilizing a subset of Wi-Fi’s sharing mechanisms

In newer years, 3GPP has authorized two new specs to be used in unlicensed spectrum; LAA and NR‑U. LAA is a complement to methods working in licensed spectrum, specializing in utilizing unlicensed spectrum to supply supplementary downlink capability. NR‑U can function independently of methods working in licensed spectrum, identical to Wi-Fi. As well as, NR‑U appears to handle very related use instances to Wi-Fi. The primary distinction between NR‑U and Wi-Fi is that the previous relies on expertise derived from conventional 3GPP-defined expertise, which tends to be extra advanced and costlier.

LAA and NR‑U resemble Wi-Fi in one other respect, which is essential when discussing the coexistence between the totally different methods. After a lot debate in 3GPP, strongly influenced by entry guidelines outlined by ETSI BRAN in Europe, LAA and NR‑U had been specified to make use of related sharing mechanisms as Wi-Fi. All three methods use an EDCA-based model of LBT with exponential back-off and the identical timing parameters. Nonetheless, LAA and NR‑U solely hear for different methods utilizing vitality detection (not preamble detection), albeit at a decrease threshold of -72 dBm, and neither LAA nor NR‑U use any of the NAV-based sharing mechanisms which have proved so precious to Wi-Fi during the last 20+ years.

In equity, not utilizing Wi-Fi’s preamble detection or NAV mechanisms makes good sense for LAA and NR‑U, as a result of the adoption of those mechanisms would require elementary adjustments to the normal mobile applied sciences leveraged within the specification of LAA and NR‑U. Certainly, their adoption would basically require LAA and NR‑U to turn into Wi-Fi, which might defeat one objective of the mobile neighborhood defining a substitute for Wi-Fi.

Utilizing solely a subset of sharing mechanisms leads to poor coexistence outcomes

Early measurements of deployed LAA methods present that utilizing solely a subset of sharing mechanisms leads to poor coexistence outcomes in actual environments.

In depth simulations over a few years in 3GPP and different boards urged that LAA and NR‑U methods utilizing only a subset of Wi-Fi’s various sharing mechanisms would coexist pretty with Wi-Fi methods, at the least within the common case. The large query is does this declare maintain up in actual deployments in unlicensed spectrum, which frequently should not very common? Sadly, there haven’t been many measurements of actual business deployments as a result of LAA, whereas deployed by a restricted variety of operators globally, isn’t used extensively. Within the case of NR‑U, there are not any identified business deployments to measure as of mid-2022.

The measurements which have occurred to this point recommend that LAA use of only a subset of Wi-Fi’s sharing mechanisms leads to poor coexistence outcomes. This conclusion relies on work in 2020 and 2021 performed by researchers on the College of Chicago. Their outcomes had been summarized in two shows in 2021 to the IEEE 802.11 Coexistence Standing Committee (which I chair):

  • LAA/Wi-Fi Coexistence Points: Wi-Fi Consumer Affiliation and Information Transmission by Vanlin Sathya, Muhammed Iqbal Rochman & Monisha Ghosh, 13 Jan 2021 (see 11-20-1973)
  • LAA/Wi-Fi Coexistence Experiments: preliminary outcomes by Monisha Ghosh & Muhammed Iqbal Rochman, 15 Nov 2021 (see 11-21-1858)

These measurement-based research recommend a wide range of potential underlying issues that aren’t apparent in common simulated environments however are rudely uncovered in real-world environments. It seems these issues trigger LAA (and possibly NR‑U too) methods to adversely (and considerably unreasonably) impression Wi-Fi operations:

  • Whereas Wi-Fi methods typically defer at vitality ranges of -82 dBm (utilizing preamble detection), LAA methods solely defer at vitality ranges above -72 dBm
  • Whereas Wi-Fi methods have hidden station mitigation mechanisms primarily based on the usage of NAV with RTS/CTS mechanisms, LAA methods don’t

The College of Chicago researchers should verify their outcomes at their new house on the College of Notre Dame, and impartial analysis can be wanted.  Nonetheless, in my view, the outcomes are more likely to be broadly right as a result of they are often simply defined.

Getting ready for poor coexistence points

Poor coexistence between LAA/NR‑U & Wi-Fi is simply a problem if LAA/NR‑U are deployed at scale however trade must be prepared for this chance.

The poor coexistence between LAA & Wi-Fi highlighted by the College of Chicago’s research is attention-grabbing from an instructional perspective. Nonetheless, they’re solely essential from a sensible perspective if LAA and NR‑U are deployed broadly.

The excellent news to this point is that the deployment trajectory of LAA appears to have stalled globally. Information from GSA reveals that the variety of operators globally deploying LAA has remained fixed and low (solely 9) for the final 2.5 years. It appears possible that even these 9 operators haven’t deployed LAA very broadly.

There are a selection of causes that may drive the restricted long-term deployment of LAA by operators, together with:

  • Operators decide LAA isn’t compelling sufficient (or low cost sufficient) in comparison with different applied sciences, notably Wi-Fi
  • Operators are ready for NR‑U, a extra versatile expertise that doesn’t require complementary entry to licensed spectrum
  • Operators perceive the coexistence points between LAA and Wi-Fi and don’t need to adversely impression Wi-Fi, which is broadly utilized by operators (and their clients)
  • Operators are hoping to influence regulators to specify 700 MHz within the higher 6 GHz band as licensed spectrum, thus avoiding coexistence points with Wi-Fi, or any want to make use of LAA or NR‑U expertise.

We don’t know which of those prospects will signify actuality. The underside line is that there are presently many uncertainties and unknowns. There’s nonetheless an actual chance that the extensive deployment of LAA or NR‑U will trigger severe injury to the multi-trillion-dollar financial and social impression of Wi-Fi on society. On this context, it’s critical to proceed work to know the impression of LAA and NR‑U on Wi-Fi operations and start to develop mitigations. I strongly encourage anybody occupied with these subjects to take part within the IEEE 802.11 Coexistence Standing Committee (contact me for particulars on how to do that).

Utilizing Wi-Fi in unlicensed spectrum & NR in licensed spectrum offers the very best total resolution whereas avoiding coexistence issues

There’s a higher resolution to keep away from coexistence points between LAA/NR‑U and Wi-Fi in unlicensed spectrum. This higher resolution relies on an understanding and recognition that:

  • Wi-Fi is a expertise that already meets the wants of billions of individuals and can proceed to take action as it’s refined by the IEEE 802.11 Working Group and the Wi-Fi Alliance sooner or later
    • The IEEE 802.11 Working Group is creating the subsequent technology of Wi-Fi as IEEE 802.11be, which can most likely be licensed by the Wi-Fi Alliance as Wi-Fi 7 as early as 2024
    • The IEEE 802.11 Working Group can be beginning to talk about the next technology, which is more likely to be licensed by the Wi-Fi Alliance as Wi-Fi 8
  • Wi-Fi’s multi-level and various sharing mechanisms have proved, over 20+ years, as greater than enough to supply good (albeit not excellent) coexistence between impartial methods in unlicensed spectrum.
    • In distinction, it’s no shock that the one-dimensional vitality detection targeted sharing mechanism utilized by LAA and by NR‑U is insufficient.

The higher resolution is to concentrate on Wi-Fi as the principle WLAN expertise in unlicensed spectrum as a result of it has been confirmed to supply a wonderful stability between efficiency, prices, and coexistence, permitting anybody, anyplace, anyplace to arrange a community that simply works! In fact, different applied sciences (reminiscent of Bluetooth, UWB, or WiSun) can be utilized to assist area of interest purposes (noting area of interest doesn’t imply small) the place it may be proven there’s good coexistence. Using Bluetooth within the 2.4 GHz band as we speak is an ideal instance of a profitable and wise area of interest use.

This then leaves licensed spectrum to be used primarily by the mobile applied sciences being developed by 3GPP as 5G/6G and enabled by ITU-T as IMT. 5G/6G will primarily be utilized in extensive areas, excessive energy use, and out of doors use instances for which they’re properly suited, Wi-Fi will primarily be used for native areas, low energy, and indoor use instances for which it’s so properly suited.  There’ll, in fact, be some overlap between these use instances. Quite than worrying about coexistence on the PHY degree, this idea simply requires everybody to concentrate on integrating 5G/6G options with Wi-Fi additional up the community stack, with the last word aim of offering the identical excessive efficiency to customers irrespective of the place they’re or what they’re doing.

There may additionally be a case for regionally licensed spectrum that can be utilized by both mobile applied sciences (regionally licensed spectrum shall be identical to licensed spectrum for these applied sciences) or by Wi-Fi (regionally licensed spectrum shall be identical to a well-managed unlicensed spectrum from the attitude of Wi-Fi).

There’s a vital want for added unlicensed spectrum to assist future demand for information site visitors in an economical and environment friendly method

A coexistence resolution primarily based on an acceptance that Wi-Fi is the first expertise in unlicensed spectrum leads us straight into one other modern debate regarding the allocation of the 6 GHz band for unlicensed use (primarily by Wi-Fi) or licensed use (primarily by 5G/6G licensed applied sciences below the IMT banner). In most elements of the world, it has already been agreed that the decrease 500 MHz of the 6 GHz band shall be allotted for unlicensed use. This response to the truth that Wi-Fi site visitors is doubling each 3 years, and the present 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz bands are rapidly turning into congested. As new data-intensive purposes like AR/VR turn into extra widespread, the calls for on the present unlicensed spectrum might turn into unsustainable. Even with Wi-Fi’s flexibility and strong coexistence capabilities, new spectrum bands are essential to handle this rising demand.

The primary present debate is concerning the higher 700 MHz of the 6 GHz band (which extends into the 7 GHz band). In some international locations, the higher 6 GHz band has already been allotted for unlicensed use (e.g., the US, Brazil, and Saudi Arabia). In different international locations (e.g., throughout Europe), there’s an ongoing debate that may most likely not be resolved till the ITU-R WRC-2023 convention on the finish of 2023.

The talk concerning the allocation of the higher 6 GHz band is multi-dimensional, with plenty of handwaving and self-serving arguments, typically primarily based on unsupported and really enthusiastic assumptions. Either side of the controversy assert that extra spectrum is required to assist rising consumer wants for extra information. At the least on that time, there’s settlement:

  • These arguing for the higher 6 GHz band to be licensed to be used by 5G/6G (or IMT) assert that solely operators utilizing licensed spectrum can present the providers wanted by customers (presumably for an oligopoly-defined charge). Apparently, in making this argument they appear to be abandoning the concept their very own LAA/NR‑U expertise can service customers in unlicensed spectrum.
  • These arguing for the higher 6 GHz band to be unlicensed, primarily to be used by Wi-Fi, assert that doing so will permit for anybody, anyplace, anyplace to arrange a community that simply works, inherently assembly customers’ wants (at a cost-driven in the direction of zero by competitors and selection).

Quite than counting on the handwaving by either side to resolve this debate, it may be higher to depend on some info. In 2022, utilizing Europe for example, on the idea {that a} decision of this debate within the context of Europe can have a major impression globally:

  • Applied sciences, like 4G/5G/6G, that use licensed spectrum have entry to only greater than 1000 MHz of low band and mid-band spectrum …
  • … and applied sciences, like Wi-Fi, that use unlicensed spectrum have entry to about 1000 MHz of low band and mid-band spectrum (together with the decrease 6 GHz band however excluding the higher 6 GHz band)
  • … and but (utilizing 2021 information from the German Ministry for Financial Affairs & Local weather) the huge bulk of knowledge as we speak is transmitted over Wi-Fi
    • Cell networks in Germany in 2021: 4 Exa Bytes (5%)
    • Fastened networks (largely Wi-Fi) in Germany in 2021: 76 Exa Bytes (95%)
  • … that is more likely to develop sooner or later, supported by fastened broadband backhaul hyperlinks to properties and companies more and more supporting charges of greater than 10 Gb/s.

These info clearly show that unlicensed spectrum, utilizing applied sciences like Wi-Fi, satisfies the wants of most customers as we speak, in a way that’s considerably extra environment friendly (as much as 20 instances extra environment friendly) and versatile than licensed spectrum. It sometimes does so at a a lot decrease value to the consumer. It’s not troublesome to additionally conclude that the advantage of offering one other 700 MHz for unlicensed use has a considerably higher “bang for the buck” than allocating it to 5G/6G operators for licensed use.

It’s doable none of this rational and evidence-based argument issues very a lot to these within the mobile neighborhood who’re advocating for the higher 6 GHz band (and even the entire 6 GHz band) to be licensed. Possibly they acknowledge unlicensed spectrum actually is the higher and extra versatile strategy to fulfill customers’ wants and Wi-Fi shall be much more in a position to assist customers’ wants by making all the 6 GHz bands unlicensed. Nonetheless, perhaps their actual aim has nothing to do with satisfying customers’ wants however as a substitute is all about blocking Wi-Fi in no matter approach they’ll in an effort to guard their mobile expertise/licensed spectrum-based oligopolies.

Allocating the whole 6 GHz band for unlicensed use has one remaining profit, taking us all the way in which again to the query of coexistence. Extra unlicensed spectrum within the 6 GHz band makes it simpler for LAA/NR‑U to function in numerous channels from Wi-Fi, thus avoiding poor coexistence outcomes between the totally different applied sciences. That is like how we keep away from poor coexistence outcomes between Wi-Fi and Bluetooth within the 2.4 GHz band. Alternatively, we might use simply Wi-Fi in 6 GHz unlicensed bands, specializing in NR expertise within the licensed bands …

A Conclusion: Allocate the whole 6 GHz for unlicensed use, primarily by Wi-Fi to keep away from coexistence points!

Congratulations on getting this far. I put my conclusions up entrance within the Govt Abstract, however I’ve been informed I have to put my conclusions on the finish too! So right here they’re once more …

  • No matter wi-fi networking options are deployed in licensed or unlicensed spectrum, they have to meet customers’ wants whereas making environment friendly use of spectrum
  • Unlicensed spectrum (normally utilizing Wi-Fi expertise) is essentially the most environment friendly approach of assembly consumer’s wants in most environments (notably house and enterprise), however licensed spectrum (utilizing mobile expertise) can be essential to fulfill consumer’s wants in some environments (notably within the wider space and at larger speeds)
  • With the introduction of broadband connections that present greater than 10 Gb/s, the complete 1200 MHz of the 6 GHz band is urgently required in order that Wi-Fi can proceed to distribute all the information delivered to end-users and allow new purposes, together with Digital Actuality and automation.
  • Whereas any expertise is allowed to make use of unlicensed spectrum, a concentrate on Wi-Fi is fascinating to keep away from coexistence points that may come up from the usage of unsophisticated sharing mechanisms by applied sciences like LAA and NR-U.

 

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