Opponent Unavailable: New Wi-Fi Standard May Hinder 5G Construction

The new Wi-Fi standard may become an obstacle to the construction of 5G networks in Russia. The 6 GHz (6425-7100 MHz) range considered for the deployment of fifth generation networks in Russia is claimed by Wi-Fi 6E – an improved version of the previous wireless technology that allows data transfer at speeds up to 10 Grit / s.

Apple has also joined the battle for the same frequencies: since November the company has been testing an improved analogue of Bluetooth in Russia – UWB technology.

Communication at a crossroads

In the 6 GHz band, Wi-Fi 6E and 5G may become competitors, Evgeni Deviating, deputy director of the scientific and technical center of the Scientific Research Institute of Radio (NIIR), told Investee. Today Wi-Fi occupies a niche in the lower sub-band (5925-6425 MHz), and the upper one (6425-7125 MHz) can be determined for 5G at the World Radiocommunication Conference in 2023. The decision of the participants of the upcoming conference will affect the development of fifth generation networks around the world.

– For the use of the upper 6 GHz sub-band, there is competition between two standardizing organizations: the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE, responsible for the development of Wi-Fi technology) and the consortium that develops specifications for mobile communications (3GPP, responsible for the development of 5G technology), – explained Evgeni Deviating.

The use of Wi-Fi and 5G in the same range in the same territory is impossible due to mutual interference, the specialist warned. Therefore, to unload traffic in local urban areas, operators need a frequency resource in a different range.

The Wi-Fi 6E standard (the letter E in the name stands for extended) is an extension of the 802.11ax standard, which allows it to be used in the unlicensed range (no need to obtain permission for frequencies from the regulator) 6 GHz in addition to those supported currently 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz. The improved version allows data transfer at speeds up to 10 Gaps.

NIIR by the end of 2021 plans to conduct tests to determine the possibility of deploying 5G in the 6 GHz band. The purpose of the research is to find the conditions for the implementation in Russia of the European scenario for the use of the radio frequency band 5925–6425 MHz for Wi-Fi 6E, and 6425–7125 MHz for 5G, Evgeni Deviating explained.

Apple also joined the battle for frequencies. In November 2020, the State Commission on Radio Frequencies (SCRF) allocated frequencies in the 6240-8236.8 MHz range to the company’s subsidiary (Apple Rus LLC) for testing an improved analogue of Bluetooth – UWB technology (Ultra Wideband – wireless technology for transmitting large amounts of data over short distances). This circumstance, as well as the work of civil and special-purpose radio services, should be taken into account when distributing the resource, added Evgeni Deviating.

Indeed, the upper end of the 6 GHz band is offered in some countries for 5G in unlicensed mode, while the lower end is offered for Wi-Fi 6E, confirmed the director of business development for Qualcomm Europe Inc. Igor Kharlashkin.

Wi-Fi 6E and 5G can be called opponents in the 6 GHz band, the press service of VimpelCom (Beeline brand) noted, since both technologies are likely to compete for the international harmonization of the frequency resource. If Wi-Fi is preferred around the world, then we may not see 5G in this range in Russia either, MTS added.

The new version of the Wi-Fi 6E standard is being promoted by the Wi-Fi Alliance (which includes more than 320 companies). They believe that “Wi-Fi 6E devices will become available as soon as 6 GHz permits are received.” In the United States, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) authorized 1200 MHz Wi-Fi 6E-based networks in April 2020. The 5925-6425 MHz band can also be allocated for Wi-Fi 6E by the European Committee for Electronic Communications (ECC) and the British media regulator Occom.

Woz is still there

In Russia, the issue of allocating frequencies for 5G has been resolved for several years. The globally harmonized 3.4-3.8 GHz range will not be used for new generation networks in Russia: it is occupied by the security forces. Previously discussed were spectrum clearing in the 700 MHz, 4.8-4.99 GHz bands, options for sharing LTE and 5G technologies in the 1.8 and 2.6 GHz bands, as well as the construction of infrastructure in the millimeter-wave band (24.25-29, 5 GHz). However, the 700 MHz frequencies are still occupied by broadcasters, and Latvia, Estonia and Finland are against the deployment of 5G in the 4.8-4.99 GHz range, Vedomosti wrote.

The only possible, basic and economically viable range for 5G in Russia is 3.4-3.8 GHz, insist in Rostelecom, Tele2, MTS, VimpelCom and Megaton. Operators consider 6 GHz as an additional, but necessary resource for launching a promising generation of cellular communications.

The scope of 5G in the 6 GHz band is wider than Wi-Fi, according to Ilya Kryuchkova, a leading expert on radio access networks in Europe and Latin America at Ericsson. Wi-Fi networks have low coverage (mainly works indoors, while 5G allows coverage of the entire city or region), spectral efficiency (the number of transmitted bits of information per 1 Hz of the frequency spectrum) is two to three times lower, the expert noted. … Wi-Fi cannot provide guaranteed quality connections and its mobility is limited, he added.

In Russia, the use of technologies in licensed radio frequency bands is traditionally more in demand (spectrum allocation by the regulator protects against interference), said Vadim Poskakukhin, head of Spectrum Management projects. Therefore, it is advisable to consider the band 6425-7100 MHz for cellular communications. At the same time, for Wi-Fi 6E, it is possible to provide for the opening of an additional radio frequency band 5945-6425 MHz

The 6 GHz range in our country is actively used, the free resource in it is limited, and it can be allocated specifically for 5G, because in the Russian Federation the problems with the spectrum for cellular communications are more serious than in most other countries, says Mikhail Minkovsky, technical director of Maxima Telecom … At the same time, a free resource allows you to build powerful Wi-Fi networks with high speeds, which work stably and are focused on a large amount of data.