The FCC Releases New Wi-Fi 6 Rules—And NXP’s Wi-Fi 6 Portfolio Is Ready to Meet ThemApril 13, 2020 by Robin Mitchell
What does Wi-Fi 6, including its new rules, mean for designers?
WiFi 6 is the next generation of WiFi after 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz. NXP, like many others, has begun developing a portfolio of devices and support resources to get Wi-Fi 6 into the consumer environment.
NXP: An Example of Wi-Fi 6 Hardware Preparation
NXP says the portfolio utilizes Wi-Fi 6 to help meet the demand for the latest technologies in automation, IoT, and automotive applications. Some highlights of this new portfolio include:
- 4x4 and 8x8-stream with integrated Bluetooth 5
- Concurrent dual Wi-Fi 2x2+2x2 with Bluetooth 5—all AEC-Q100 qualified
- IoT-focused 2x2 Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5
- An RF front-end solution based on silicon-germanium to create MIMO system
Block diagram of 88W9068, part of NXP's Wi-Fi 6 portfolio. Image used courtesy of NXP
Amidst new Wi-Fi 6 developments like NXP's Wi-Fi 6 portfolio, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) recently proposed new rules for the 6 GHz band, unleashing 1,200 MHz for unlicensed use. In this article, we'll explore the possibilities that the 6 GHz band opens for designers and what updated requirements they may need to follow in light of these new rules.
Wi-Fi 6 to Future-Proof for More Devices
According to the Wi-Fi Alliance, Wi-Fi 6 is the next generation of Wi-Fi with the newest frequency band open to the public, 6 GHz. Wi-Fi 6 is designed to provide significant improvements to its predecessors to cope with the increasing number of Wi-Fi devices found in the home. The Wi-Fi Alliance explains that some improvements users might see with Wi-Fi 6 include a larger bandwidth (160 MHz opposed to 80 MHz), MIMO antennas, OFDMA, and higher data rates.
At CES this year, many industry leaders in wireless solutions, like Eric McLaughlin from Intel, forecasted that a Wi-Fi 6-focus would be a major trend in device designs in 2020. Screenshot used courtesy of the Wi-Fi Alliance
While many telecommunications industries advertise Wi-Fi 6 as faster than previous Wi-Fi frequency bands, this claim is only partially true. As networking device manufacturer TP-Link explains, Wi-Fi 6 does increase data rates from 6.9 Gbps to 9.6 Gbps, but unless a device is equipped for this increase at the hardware level, current devices will not experience much (if any) change.
Parks Associates, a marketing intelligence agency, states that on average, U.S. broadband households support 9.1 connected devices. If such a home replaced its current Wi-Fi solution with Wi-Fi 6, users would notice little difference in overall performance. What Wi-Fi 6 does is future-proof a network by allowing for more devices to connect while retaining their high-speed connections.
The New FCC Wi-Fi 6 Requirements
While the FCC hasn't gone into extensive details about the new Wi-Fi 6 rules, they have released a document that talks about proposed rule changes to the 6 GHz band to allow unlicensed devices to use this spectrum. The opening of this band will allow for any design engineer to use the 6 GHz spectrum in a near-identical way to the 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz spectrums.
According to the document, devices would be able to operate on standard power in the 850 MHz range and devices located indoors would operate at low power on the full 1,200 MHz spectrum.
Automatic frequency coordination would be required to ensure that devices do not interfere with incumbent services; the operation of licensed devices must not be affected by the introduction of unlicensed devices.
What Wi-Fi 6 May Mean for Designers
The 6 GHz spectrum may help engineers address a few design challenges with connected devices.
One major problem that Wi-Fi 6 will help to solve is the constant battle between low-power and connectivity. Current Wi-Fi is far too power-hungry for low-power IoT solutions. Bluetooth itself does not provide an internet connection, which means that IoT devices based on Bluetooth need to piggyback another device's internet connection. However, its low-power nature makes it desirable in IoT.
Wi-Fi 6 focuses on low-power devices and has mechanisms that allow for devices to consume far less power than what they would typically use on 2.4 GHz Wi-Fi with such mechanisms including shorter reconnects and device persistence. The use of Wi-Fi 6 in IoT is further helped with NXP's portfolio that includes Wi-Fi 6 ICs focused on IoT devices.
NXP's says its new portfolio will accelerate Wi-Fi 6's adoption in IoT, auto, access, and industrial markets. Image used courtesy of NXP
Wi-Fi 6 also brings massive opportunities to industrial applications thanks to its MIMO capabilities and increased bandwidth. One major problem faced by current industrial systems is the desire to integrate thousands of sensors via a network connection. Since many of these can easily be remote and mobile (such as a moving platform) a wireless connection is essential.
Current Wi-Fi technology does not allow for more than a handful of devices to operate on the same network before latency-increase can be easily detected. That said, Wi-Fi 6 may see promising opportunities in IIoT.
Wi-Fi 6 is an exciting new Wi-Fi technology that will provide higher bandwidths, greater speeds, and better connectivity. But we may not see its advantages fully until homes, cars, and industrial systems are flooded with more connected devices—all without users noticing changes in speed and quality.