Why Apple, Google, Facebook and More Are Petitioning the FCC for a New Wi-Fi Band

Public Wifi 1 Credit: Vice / Ashley Goodall
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A bevy of tech giants are petitioning the Federal Communications Commission for a new Wi-Fi band. The coalition of companies, including Apple, Microsoft, Facebook and Google, have sent a letter to the FCC asking to continue to open up the 6GHz Wi-Fi band. Here’s what you should know.

What Is the 6GHz Band?

If you have a Wi-Fi router at home, there’s a chance that you have both a 2.4GHz and 5GHz network. Those two networks operate on different bands with their own pros and cons. 6GHz is another band of Wi-Fi.

Last year, the FCC provisionally approved the unlicensed use of 6GHz networks. That means that it could be used alongside existing 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands for most Wi-Fi applications.

6GHz is already used by some industries, including cellular companies and utility firms, who both use the band to connect mobile base stations and their core networks.

Those firms have pushed back against the unlicensed use of 6GHz, claiming opening up the 6GHz band to other uses could interfere with their own networks and systems. Which is where the letter comes in.

The Letter

Basically, the letter argues that interfere with existing telecom infrastructure wouldn’t be a problem for Very Low Power (VLP) uses. Some examples include mobile hotspot tethering and AR/VR wearables.

That’s because the existing antennas are typically built very high up. VLP systems like hotspots and AR glasses would also be used near people or in vehicles, which would help block transmissions.

The tech firms also argue the 5G angle, saying that the new Wi-Fi band would help Americans get the most of of millimeter wave spectrum. “Future 5G services require wireless broadband portable devices,” the letter reads.

Why Does This Matter?

Opening up a new band would help meet the U.S.’s demand for Wi-Fi connectivity and enable most Americans to access 5G-enabled services and devices.

It would also, presumably, just generally boost the performance of mobile hotspots and AR glasses.

There has also been widespread evidence suggesting that Apple is working on a proprietary pair of AR/VR glasses. Given the fact that Apple cosigned the letter, that may mean that the company hasn’t quite given up on developing the technology — despite recent reports.

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