Broadcom was the first vendor to announce availability of a full suite of Wi-Fi 6E chips
In December 2020, the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) Office of Engineering and Technology authorized the first Wi-Fi 6E device: A low-power indoor transmitter from Broadcom. The news was exciting for the wireless industry as a whole; however, because Broadcom was also the first vendor to announce availability of a full suite of 6 GHz Wi-Fi chips, it also pointed to the chip maker’s notable strategy of being ahead of the curve.
“2016 is when we first started targeting the 6 GHz band,” Chris Szymanski, director of product marketing for Broadcom’s Mobile Connectivity Division revealed to RCR Wireless News. He described conducting engineering research in “stealth mode” and speaking with governments around the world for roughly two years before actively starting to work with the FCC on opening up the 6 GHz band for unlicensed Wi-Fi use.
For background, Wi-Fi 6E refers to the ability to leverage the 6 GHz band (5.925–7.125 GHz) for unlicensed Wi-Fi operation. It delivers faster connectivity speeds and improved capacity when compared to both 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz Wi-Fi, making it ideal for smartphones, tablets and laptops, but also enterprise applications such as virtual/augmented reality and IoT connectivity.
But, using the 6 GHz band — whether all or some of it — for unlicensed Wi-Fi is a government-by-government decision, requiring a strategic approach on Broadcom’s part if its goal was to get the entire industry on the same page.
Szymanski illustrated a two-pronged approach, in which the chip maker worked with the FCC in the U.S. and CEPT in Europe as most other countries follow a similar regulatory process as those two agencies.
“We put all of our eggs in those two baskets,” he continued. “Now we are actively engaging with countries all around the globe [based on] the decisions made by [the U.S. and Europe].” He added that other early key markets were Brazil and the Republic of Korea because they are considered regulatory leaders within their respective regions.
As a result of this approach, said Szymanski, there is “a rapidly growing market.”
“More than 56% of the world’s GDP has authorized at least some part of the 6 GHz. By the end of the year, we will likely be close to 70%. Given how long it’s taken to achieve some level of harmonization in the 5 GHz band, this strategy has been super sound,” he elaborated.
In other words: Adoption of the Wi-Fi 6E standard has occurred at a “faster pace than expected.”
It’s clear from speaking with Szymanski, as well as other industry experts, that Wi-Fi 6E is a massively important moment in Wi-Fi’s evolution. In Szymanski’s characterization, Wi-Fi 6E is an inflection point for the wireless technology and what is can be used for.
“In the past, Wi-Fi was all about throughout. Now, the reason we focus on throughput for Wi-Fi 6E, and soon Wi-Fi 7, is to reduce latency and increase determinism. With 6E we are able to specifically design for next-generation services. That’s why you see companies like Broadcom investing well in advance; we had been working with it, we understood the hunger in the market, we understood the opportunity,” he said.