By Alex Braelow
On October 23rd, 2018, the FCC Commissioners and Chairman voted unanimously to release up to 1.2 GHz of additional unlicensed Wi-Fi spectrum in and around the 6 GHz band. While the vote was only procedural, it has nevertheless set in motion a regulatory process that puts the United States on track to double the amount of spectrum available to Wi-Fi by as early as 2019.
Now, here’s some context. As it stands, the global economic surplus value of Wi-Fi is roughly $1.96 trillion dollars, with the United States accounting for about a quarter of this. In addition, Wi-Fi carries between 70% and 75% of all smartphone traffic in the US. In other countries, like Japan and Germany, it carries well above 80%.
Simply put, the Wi-Fi landscape is a powder keg, and the FCC may have just lit the fuse.
Indeed, the introduction of this additional spectrum would likely spark a significant growth cycle for the Wi-Fi industry. It would give a boost to the existing infrastructure, solidify Wi-Fi’s indoor connectivity dominance, and enable consumers and businesses to apply low-cost Wi-Fi technology to a multitude of new use cases. Most notably in the Internet of Things (IoT).
But there’s more.
The release of this new spectrum would coincide quite nicely with the commercial availability of devices and routers operating according to the standards of Wi-Fi 6.
Blaz Vavpetic, the Chief Technology Officer here at iPass, noted that “alongside the enhancements to spectral efficiency, power consumption, and security in the new Wi-Fi 6 technology, this huge allocation of spectrum would give Wi-Fi everything it needs to serve more use cases and continue growing.”
In a recent study, Wi-Fi Alliance predicted that the global economic value of Wi-Fi would reach $3.47 trillion dollars by 2023. The study predicted that the United States would drive this growth and account for roughly $1 trillion dollars of the total. Considering the FCC’s vote, and that the world generally follows the United States with regard to Wi-Fi spectrum allocation, it’s safe to assume that Wi-Fi Alliance is feeling quite good about their predictions.