Faster fixed wireless came a step closer with the news late last week that the FCC has approved testing of automated frequency coordination (AFC) systems for the 6 GHz band. That band will be available for commercial full-power outdoor use when one or more AFC systems have been approved for use.
The systems are designed to enable spectrum in the band to be shared with existing radio astronomy and point-to-point microwave users by protecting those users from interference.
The latest FCC action is good news for fixed wireless equipment makers and the wireless internet service providers (WISPs) who use that equipment and who are hoping to support speeds as high as 1 Gbps using the spectrum. The band includes a wide 1200 MHz swath of spectrum with 160 MHz channels between 5.925-7.125 GHz.
Thirteen entities have been conditionally approved to operate AFC systems. Those entities are Broadcom, Google, Comsearch, Sony Group, Kyrio, Key Bridge Wireless, Nokia Innovations, Federated Wireless, the Wireless Broadband Alliance, the Wi-Fi Alliance, Qualcomm, Plume Design and RED Technologies.
As the Wireless Innovation Forum (WinnForum), explained in a press release, the FCC public notice about AFC testing calls for AFC systems to undergo lab testing and a 45-day public trial. If both are successfully completed, a system will be approved for commercial operation.
The FCC made spectrum in the 6 GHz band available on an unlicensed basis in 2020, but it has been limited to indoor low-power use. It is the basis for Wi-Fi 6e standard, which has seen strong deployment.
When the AFC systems are approved, manufacturers will be able to sell standard-power equipment for outdoor use. Providers that have used the 6 GHz band on an experimental basis for fixed wireless say they have achieved speeds of 1 Gbps.
While some fixed wireless equipment already on the market supports gigabit speeds, typically that equipment uses higher-frequency millimeter wave spectrum, which generally has more limited range in comparison with lower-frequency spectrum such as the 6 GHz band.