The debate over the 6 GHz band is heating up as we approach the ITU’s World Radiocommunication Conference (WRC-23) to be held in November—as noted in our recently updated 6 GHz benchmarking guide.
According to the GSMA, the mobile industry association, the band is “vital to the future of global connectivity”. This is why it thinks that at least the upper part of the band, 6425—7125 MHz, should be made available for 5G by 2030.
However, several countries have already decided to release the entire band (5925—7125 MHz) for unlicensed use, such as Wi-Fi. This trend is especially notable in ITU Region 2, where the US decision to do this prompted many neighbours to do the same. They include Brazil, Canada, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras and Peru.
The tide may be turning. In September 2022, Chile’s Ministry of Transport and Telecommunications reversed an earlier decision to make the whole band available for Wi-Fi. And last week, Mexican regulator IFT said it would only classify the lower part of the band as “free” spectrum.
“For those of us old enough to remember the shine wearing off the lofty promises about WiMAX, this is beginning to look familiar,” said one mobile industry veteran.
The Wi-Fi Alliance was disappointed. “Internet connectivity is an essential socio-economic function, and Wi-Fi is the primary means of delivering Internet to consumers and enterprises in Mexico,” it said.
However, Wi-Fi is not the only “threat” to mobile use of 6 GHz. The satellite industry already uses the upper band and is not keen on the potential arrival of 5G.
“If this band were to be identified for IMT without proper conditions, the satellite industry would end up being unable to use it,” a spokesperson for the satellite industry association ESOA told us recently.
More information on the development of this much-contested band is available in PolicyTracker’s updated 6 GHz band benchmark, which is part of the Spectrum Research Service.•