Are you tired of watching funny cat or dog videos yet? How about your favorite TV show or a movie on your smart TV or personal devices? Or playing Fortnite? Or being able to grab your laptop and take it with you to the meeting to project those slides you (just) finished (whew!)? Or asking your talking home “assistant” for a weather report or recipe? Or having a WebEx meeting with remote colleagues using video technology? How about checking your email while you are waiting on a flight? Or viewing your home security cameras? Or re-setting your thermostat remotely?
Not only are you not tired of it, but you are doing more of it. Lots more. Cisco’s annual Visual Networking Index projects that by 2022 those of us in North America will be sending more than 51,300,000,000 packets of Internet data through Wi-Fi networks, or 51.3 exabytes of data. That amounts to 56.7% of all the Internet packet data that Cisco projects will be carried by all local access network technologies in 2022.
Why is that so impressive? Well, in 2017, ALL Internet traffic (fixed, mobile, Wi-Fi) amounted to just 30 exabytes, and Wi-Fi traffic was 14 exabytes. So this begs the obvious question – how are we going to more than triple the capacity of Wi-Fi systems in just a few short years?
Stated as simply as possible – (1) industry will be upgrading Wi-Fi to what is now the 6thgeneration of Wi-Fi technology, and (2) we need governments to do their part by making more radio spectrum available to allow this new technology to perform at its best.
Last week, the US Federal Communications Commission received comments on a plan to open up new radio spectrum for “Wi-Fi 6.” The “home” for Wi-Fi 6 will be the 6 GHz band. While that radio spectrum is already in use by a number of licensed entities, the Wi-Fi industry, including Cisco, believes we have found a way to allow Wi-Fi to peacefully co-exist with licensed users, without causing them harmful interference to their operations.
A key point from our perspective – it’s critical for the FCC to open the entire 6 GHz band for Wi-Fi use. For one, Wi-Fi 6 will deliver its best throughput if it can operate on wider radio channels not available in existing spectrum. For another, higher power uses of Wi-Fi will need to avoid licensed uses in the band, present and future. There are a lot of licenses to avoid – about 100,000 microwave links are in the band today, and growing. And that’s just one category of licensees. Only by creating an opportunity for Wi-Fi to occupy spectrum throughout the 6 GHz range will there be enough spectrum to support future Wi-Fi demand.
Cisco and all of our Wi-Fi colleagues in industry have been, and will continue to be, in front of the FCC to explain why this new spectrum is so important to you, and to the technology we’ve devised to serve your future needs. We’ll keep you posted.