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Qualcomm, Plume, Nokia, Google, others signal interest in 6GHz management

Roughly a dozen companies told the FCC they would like to coordinate usage of the US's newly open 6GHz band.

The news signals the growing interest in transmissions in the unlicensed 6GHz band, as well as the growing number of companies contemplating the market for spectrum usage and management.

Moreover, the development helps to solidify the notion that spectrum can be shared by multiple users in an organized way. After all, the FCC's plan to allow private companies to operate Automated Frequency Coordination (AFC) systems in the 6GHz band is designed to support standard-power transmissions that won't interfere with existing 6GHz users, such as those already using the band for cell site backhaul or radio astronomy.

Some of the companies that filed applications with the FCC to become AFC operators in the 6GHz band include Qualcomm, Plume, Wi-Fi Alliance, Amdocs, Federated Wireless, Key Bridge Wireless, Wireless Broadband Alliance (WBA), Nokia, Kyrio (a subsidiary of CableLabs), Sony, Red Technologies, CommScope, Broadcom and Google.

Some applicants, such as Qualcomm, offered simple diagrams to show how their AFC might work. Click here for a larger version of this image. (Source: Qualcomm)
Some applicants, such as Qualcomm, offered simple diagrams to show how their AFC might work. Click here for a larger version of this image.
(Source: Qualcomm)

In their filings, some of the companies hinted at what their interest in the 6GHz band might entail:

  • "The Broadcom AFC will employ the Open AFC Software for its core functions," the company wrote to the FCC. "The Open AFC project is a dedicated community committed to the design, development, testing, and certification of AFC Software for unlicensed services in the 6GHz band. The Open AFC group is comprised of representatives from more than thirty companies, representing a broad crosssection of the wireless ecosystem, and is sponsored and supported by TIP."
  • "Plume is particularly interested in operating an AFC system because it currently manages a large number of Wi-Fi networks in the United States," the company wrote. "The Wi-Fi networks that Plume manages will add, over time, operations in the 6GHz band. As a result, part of the optimization performed by Plume going forward will involve selecting the correct 6GHz channel for operation considering the allowable transmit power each access point (AP) can utilize on each of the 6GHz channels. This service will inherently involve activities similar to those performed by an AFC system operator. "
  • "Qualcomm is very excited by the ability to support standard power unlicensed Wi-Fi and 5G NR-Unlicensed 6GHz band solutions that will help enable a technology transformation impacting every kind of connected device – from mesh networks and fixed wireless systems to smartphones and the ever-increasing Internet of Things," the company wrote.
  • "In this AFC application, WBA leverages the technical advances in Wi-Fi related with OpenRoaming solution that was launched by WBA and provide the building blocks to augment the availability and accessibility of Wi-Fi networks locally and globally," the association wrote. "We are pleased to be a part of this important new innovation in Wi-Fi in the 6GHz band and view the AFC as key to both expanding Wi-Fi use cases while protecting band incumbents from harmful interference."

Many of the 6GHz AFC applicants already manage similar spectrum-usage systems for the 3.5GHz CBRS band, including Federated, Key Bridge, Google, Red and others.

Regulators at the FCC voted last year to allocate the entire 6GHz band for unlicensed operations, including Wi-Fi. The band supports two types of operations: standard-power operations and indoor, low-power operations. Indoor Wi-Fi providers – which do not require AFC systems – have already begun releasing 6GHz devices into the market.

The FCC's vote represented a setback to some players like Ericsson, Verizon and T-Mobile that had urged the commission to set aside some or all of the 6GHz band for licensed uses, including 5G.

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Mike Dano, Editorial Director, 5G & Mobile Strategies, Light Reading | @mikeddano

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