Wi-Fi is about to get a whole lot more exciting in Canada. The Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada (ISED) announced on May 19 that it has opened up a new swath of Wi-Fi spectrum in the 6 GHz frequency range, tripling the currently available spectrum which will deliver faster Wi-Fi speeds.
This new spectrum will enable Wi-Fi 6E, a new class of Wi-Fi devices that aims to address the congestion of current Wi-Fi systems. Today’s Wi-Fi operated in the 2.4GHz and 5GHz range. With these bands becoming increasingly congested, Wi-Fi devices need new, uncrowded spectrums to reach their max speeds. The new 6 GHz band will provide nearly 1,200 MHz of additional spectrum to support future Wi-Fi devices.
“The new 6 GHz spectrum allocation for Wi-Fi 6E provides exactly what future Wi-Fi-based services need, and that is more bandwidth,” said Chris Beg, wireless systems architect at Cognitive Systems in an email to the publication. “With the 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz bands, the limited spectrum causes contention as the number of networks and users in a given area increases, making obtaining wider channels difficult and unreliable.”
Although Wi-Fi 6E doesn’t support higher max speeds than Wi-Fi 6, having access to higher frequencies enables wider channels, which makes it more likely to reach that peak speed. Think of channels like a highway: the wider the road is, the more vehicles can travel in parallel.
With the decision, Canada joins the many countries that have opened up 6GHz for Wi-Fi. Although the specific frequencies differ, most countries have extended Wi-Fi into the 6 GHz range to some capacity. The U.S., as well as many countries in South America, Europe and Asia, have all released similar frequency ranges for Wi-Fi.
“Wi-Fi 6E (Wi-Fi in 6 GHz) eliminates capacity limitations of Wi-Fi 5,” explained Carlos Rebellon, director of Americas government relations at Intel, in an email statement. “It will deliver higher speeds, ultra-lower latencies, better energy consumption of connected devices, and it will be perfectly suited in dense environments like the enterprise.”
In addition to improving data transmission performance, Wi-Fi 6E will be able to enhance Internet-of-Things (IoT) and specialized use cases like Wi-Fi sensing.
“More bandwidth is great news for sensing applications because obtaining a wider channel becomes more practical and more deterministic,” said Beg. “Utilizing a wider channel for Sensing is equivalent to taking a picture with a colour camera vs a black and white camera, resulting in a more detailed image.”
There’s big money to be made, too. The Wi-Fi Alliance estimated that the global value of Wi-Fi will reach $4.9 trillion in 2025. In countries with a similar population to Canada, Wi-Fi Alliance estimates a $22 billion value for Wi-Fi in 2025.
Wi-Fi 6E devices will be divided into three power categories:
- Standard-power devices (both indoor and outdoor) with automated frequency coordination (AFC) control. These are indoor and outdoor access points for large groups of users.
- Low-power indoor-only devices without AFC control. Think home routers and access points.
- Very low-power devices (both indoor and outdoor) without AFC control. These are IoT sensors and AR devices.
Because outdoor devices can potentially step over the service frequencies of fixed satellite services (FSS), ISED has required all outdoor Wi-Fi 6E devices to implement automatic frequency coordination (AFC) systems. In a nutshell, AFC checks with a database to see what frequencies are already reserved in the local to prevent interference. This is a key technology for enabling outdoor Wi-Fi 6 devices.
With the standard now set, Canada can expect to see indoor Wi-Fi 6E devices by the end of 2021. Outdoor standard power devices will arrive in early-to-mid 2022.
“The 6 GHz spectrum amendment in Canada will bring the biggest Wi-Fi advancement in 20 years for all Canadians,” said Rebellon.
But the market is already looking ahead. Although Wi-Fi 6E devices have just landed, the industry is already expecting Wi-Fi 7 to arrive by 2024 with another massive boost in bandwidth.