This is an important milestone for business, society and politics: More than 15 years after the last addition to the Wi-Fi spectrum, the EU today released a 500 MHz frequency block in the lower 6 GHz band for license-free use by Wi-Fi. Publication in the Official Journal of the EU (OJEU) paves the way for gigabit Wi-Fi in Europe.
We would like to thank the political decision-makers and regulators in the EU who facilitated this quick and specific implementation. Many interest groups from business and society have monitored the approval process over recent years and, from the very beginning, LANCOM also actively supported the release of the new, low-interference frequency band for Wi-Fi in Europe. But despite the euphoria, this can only be a stopover: We need to achieve more in the EU and open up the entire 6 GHz spectrum for Wi-Fi.
The world moves on
A glance at the “Wi-Fi globe” shows that leading economies like the USA, but also Brazil and South Korea are a decisive step further: They have released the entire 6 GHz band for use by Wi-Fi (5925–7125 MHz). That’s a total of 1200 MHz, i.e. more than twice that in Europe.
And the USA, South Korea and various Latin American countries are just the forerunners. The list of those in favor of releasing the entire bandwidth is significantly longer: With Australia, Mexico and Japan, other countries are currently preparing to open up. The economic arguments for a step like this are obvious: The Wi-Fi Alliance estimates the global value added from Wi-Fi is expected to be US$ 5 trillion in 2025.
Europe: All together or none at all
In Europe the support for such a step is not widespread. Some EU member states are worried about the operation of existing radio links (known as “incumbents”), which they have moved from the lower to the upper part of the 6 GHz band. While other members are positive about opening up the upper band, the European Union always aims to achieve a united, harmonized solution—the result of which basically means: All together or none at all.
However, we hope that the fears for the radio links can be dispelled. The 6 GHz band is regulated as a carrier for indoor communication. The general conditions for the lower 6 GHz band only permit devices with a typical indoor transmission power of 200 milliwatts. Fixed outdoor installations are not envisaged.
By extrapolating this principle to include the upper band, interference to existing wireless installations could be ruled out with a modest amount of regulatory and technical effort. This is because the ECC standard as developed for the lower frequency band could easily apply to the rest of the band.
Expansion at the push of a button
But if this were to happen in the EU right now, what would become of all the new Wi-Fi 6E devices coming to market in the next few months? Would they become obsolete quicker than a blink of the consumer’s eye? Or could their performance be extended to cover the full bandwidth at the push of a button? Or more correctly, via firmware update? The answer is simple: It depends on the manufacturer!
At LANCOM, we will initially design our Wi-Fi 6E access points for the European market in such a way that they operate in the permitted frequency ranges only. Their performance will effectively be “limited” to what is legally permitted in Europe. However, should the upper 6 GHz band be released in the future, a software update will be all it takes to release the full potential of the 6 GHz band.
Whether other manufacturers will also offer this option remains to be seen.