FCC Chairman Ajit Pai has circulated draft rules that would permit unlicensed devices to operate in the 6 GHz band, making 1.2 GHz spectrum available for unlicensed use. Pai’s proposal will be voted on at the FCC’s open meeting on April 23.

If approved, the proposal would allow unlicensed devices to share the spectrum with incumbent licensed services, following rules to protect the licensed services. Two power levels for unlicensed users would be authorized: standard power in 850 MHz of the 6 GHz band and indoor low-power operation over the full 1.2 GHz. An automated frequency coordination system would prevent standard power access points from operating where they could cause interference to incumbent services.

A separate Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) proposes to allow very low-power devices to operate across the 6 GHz band for high data rate applications, including wearable, augmented reality and virtual reality devices. This NPRM will seek comments on making a contiguous 1.2 GHz block of spectrum available for the development of new, innovative, high speed, short-range devices, with appropriate guidelines to avoid interfering with existing services.

“From Wi-Fi routers to home appliances, Americans’ everyday use of devices that connect to the internet over unlicensed spectrum has exploded. That trend will only continue. Cisco projects that nearly 60 percent of global mobile data traffic will be off-loaded to Wi-Fi by 2022. To accommodate that increase in Wi-Fi demand, the FCC is aiming to increase the supply of Wi-Fi spectrum with our boldest initiative yet: making the entire 6 GHz band available for unlicensed use. By doing this, we would effectively increase the amount of spectrum available for Wi-Fi almost by a factor of five. This would be a huge benefit to consumers and innovators across the nation. It would be another step toward increasing the capacity of our country’s networks and it would help advance even further our leadership in next generation wireless technologies, including 5G.” — Ajit Pai

Qualcomm’s CEO, Steve Mollenkopf, endorsed the proposal.

“Qualcomm fully supports the FCC’s plan to allocate the 6 GHz band for advanced unlicensed operations,” he said in a statement. He said the additional bandwidth would enhance applications such as telemedicine, remote learning and working, fully immersive augmented and virtual reality and the IoT.