Home5G & BeyondWi-fi and mobile sectors intensify scramble for 6Ghz ahead of WRC-23 

    Wi-fi and mobile sectors intensify scramble for 6Ghz ahead of WRC-23 


    Latest move from Americas harmonises wi-fi roadmap for the US, Brazil, Colombia and several other countries – but not EMEA

    The telecommunications arm of the Organisation of the American States – known by its Spanish abbreviation CITEL – has officially adopted a common position on the hotly disputed upper 6GHz band ahead of the World Radiocommunication Conference 2023 (WRC-23) to be held in Dubai this November-December. 

    According to Broadcom director of product marketing and technology strategy Christopher Szymanski, at a recent meeting in Canada, CITEL decided to support “no change” in the radio regulations for 6425-7025MHz and 7025-7125MHz globally – referring to WRC Agenda Item 1.2. 

    CITEL’s decision keeps the door wide open to unlicensed spectrum for wi-fi in the top-half of the 6GHz band. 

    “Despite the consistent efforts by some to seek an IMT [mobile] identification for these two bands, the Americas decided to prioritize incumbent FS and FSS operations and allow for continued harmonization of wi-fi in the band,” he posted on LinkedIn

    The US moved early to adopt the full 1200MHz of the 6GHz band for unlicensed use but, despite some high-profile countries joining it, many countries have joined the other camp which would see the upper portion of the band reserved for licensed IMT mobile use. 

    The stakes could not be higher given the conference will decide the global future of the 6GHz band. CITEL went further, rejecting a proposal to include 6425-7125 MHz as a future IMT agenda item for WRC-27. Some observers believe this move was to head off the mobile IMT camp potentially having a second chance to introduce IMT to 6GHz once the mobile ecosystem had developed – the 6GHz wi-fi ecosystem is more advanced today.  

    “We’re encouraged by CITEL’s decision. It not only signals support for the continued adoption of the full 6GHz band for wi-fi in the Americas but actively promotes a harmonised approach to the full 6GHz band in the rest of the world,” Szymanski told wi-fi advocacy organisation Wi-Fi NOW.  

    “A globally fragmented upper 6GHz band, where some countries or regions take a different approach, benefits no one. It creates market uncertainty, increases communications costs for end-users, and delays innovation,” he added. 

    Hold your horses, wi-fi 

    Despite the latest move, the GSMA has unsurprisingly continued to state that 6GHz will be vital to meeting mobile operator mid-band spectrum needs of 2GHz on average, per market, by 2030.  

    “In EMEA, meanwhile, there is already preliminary support in Africa and the CIS for 5G in the upper 6GHz band, as well as several major Middle Eastern and European markets,” said head of spectrum Luciana Camargos in a recent blog. “6GHz is the largest remaining single block of mid-band spectrum that can be assigned to licensed mobile in the foreseeable future.” 

    Vodafone Group recently went further, suggesting that proposals by the tech sector “to horde the full 6GHz band for wi-fi only” will mean “5G growth will be throttled before it can fully reach its stride”. The telco added. “The quality of mobile services in the future could suffer if national regulators and authorities don’t agree to allocate the latest tranche of available spectrum to network operators.” 

    The telco also suggested the wi-fi industry “especially large router vendors and big tech companies” want to keep the spectrum to “build up private local area networks” meaning they would be “exempt from any regulatory licence and would not guarantee provision for public mobile use.” 

    This sort of argument plays well to regulators and governments, which are used to gaining windfalls from spectrum auctions.  

    The GSMA points to China’s July announcement to dedicate the upper portion of the band, plus recent rethinks in Mexico and Chile as suggesting that the battle over 6GHz is only really kicking off in earnest now – and that it wasn’t just the EMEA region pushing back on wi-fi. Recent media interest in India suggests 6GHz lobbying is in full swing right now.  

    Getting on with it 

    Szymanski told Wi-Fi NOW that despite the mobile industry pushing for the upper 6GHz band: “there is no hope for global harmonisation, current frequency allocations for 5G remain underutilised and any real deployments of 6GHz IMT technology would be many years in the future.” 

    In the meantime, the wi-fi world is getting on with building its ecosystem, with the Federal Communications Commission recently giving the go-ahead for automated frequency coordination (AFC) trials at 6GHz. AFC systems are crucial to enabling standard power wi-fi to be deployed with interfering with other networks – like current wi-fi. 

    Last month, Canadian authorities designated Qualcomm as an Automated Frequency Coordination System Administrator (AFCSA) in Canada meaning it can deploy its system commercially.