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New 6 GHz Wi-Fi could add $153 billion to U.S. economy: report

Opening the 6 GHz band to Wi-Fi could add $153.75 billion to the U.S. economy over the next five years, according to a new study.

In late April, the Federal Communications Commission adopted rules that make 1,200 megahertz of spectrum in the 6 GHz band available for unlicensed use. Freeing up the chunk of 6 GHz spectrum for Wi-Fi is the biggest frequency allocation upgrade to the now aging wireless protocol in 10 years. Wi-Fi using 5 GHz spectrum – the last major touch-up – was introduced in 2009. The original 2.4 GHz Wi-Fi was introduced in 1997.

The industry-paid-for report (PDF) from WifiForward claims billions of dollars will be created, in a large part because of an acceleration of Internet of Things deployments. WifiForward is a group of pro-Wi-Fi companies, organizations and public sector institutions; Google, Microsoft and Hewlett Packard Enterprise are among its members.

The new 6 GHz-capable technology is branded Wi-Fi 6E, with the designator “E” for Extended (it’s distinct from the current Wi-Fi 6 branding, which is merely a Wi-Fi iteration and has nothing to do with the frequency used). Wi-Fi 6E takes advantage of 1,200 megahertz of free cost-to-user spectrum in the 6 GHz band between 5.925 GHz and 7.125 GHz. That’s higher in the spectrum than existing Wi-Fi, it’s wider, and it will be more capacious and faster: “Wi-Fi 6 will be over two-and-a-half times faster than the current standard and will offer better performance for American consumers,” the FCC says in a news release (PDF). “Opening the 6 GHz band for unlicensed use will also increase the amount of spectrum available for Wi-Fi by nearly a factor of five.”

The full 1,200 megahertz will be allocated to indoor, low-power devices, such as those used heavily in M2M and IoT. Standard-power devices, such as those used for media consumption, will be restricted to 850 megahertz in the 6 GHz band.

How the U.S. economy benefits from Wi-Fi 6E

The $153.75 billion figure from WifiForward breaks down into three areas: $83.06 billion added to the U.S. Gross Domestic Product (GDP); $67.78 billion in producer surplus; and $2.92 billion in consumer surplus. The economic gains are anticipated over the next five years.

Copyright © 2020 IDG Communications, Inc.

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