The FCC in the US has officially given Apple, Meta, and Google the go-ahead to tap into the 6GHz band for wireless devices. This comes four years after the companies teamed up to petition the FCC for access to this spectrum, with one of the biggest use cases being for augmented reality and virtual reality devices.
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The FCC announced the decision in a press release on Thursday after a unanimous 5-0 vote in favor of the changes. With the move, the FCC says that a “new class of very lower power devices” can now operate in the 6GHz spectrum:
The Federal Communications Commission today opened the 6 GHz band to a new class of very low power devices that will operate alongside other Wi- Fi-enabled devices. These rules will spur an eco-system of cutting-edge applications, including wearable technologies and augmented and virtual reality, that will help businesses, enhance learning opportunities, advance healthcare opportunities, and bring new entertainment experiences
Recognizing the need to provide even more flexibility and foster unlicensed innovation, the Commission established rules that permit devices that operate at very low power (VLP) across short distances and provide very high connection speeds, which are ideal for the types of high- data rate cutting-edge applications that will both enrich consumer experiences and bolster the nation’s economy. These include, for example, advanced augmented and virtual reality (AR/VR), wearable sensors and technologies, and variety of Internet of Things devices.
With today’s FCC decision, Apple can use higher power levels within the 6GHz band to unlock “very high connection speeds.” The signals are not permitted to reach very far, to ensure that they are geofenced from potential interference with current licensed usage in the 6GHz band.
In their initial petition, Apple, Meta, and Google said that it would be “critically important to future innovations in augmented and virtual reality” to have access to this spectrum. The companies cited a number of potential use cases, including:
- Immersive AR/VR connectivity and other advanced peripherals, such as the connection between AR glasses and a smartphone.
- In vehicles where vehicle penetration loss further reduces the risk of harmful interference.
- These applications include streaming from smartphones to infotainment systems (or vice versa), transmission of navigation data, and other applications.
For Apple, there are obvious use cases for this spectrum, including Vision Pro and its future AR and VR devices. The in-car infotainment use case could also benefit future implementations of CarPlay, unlocking more powerful connectivity between the phone and the car itself.
While Apple and Google have not commented on today’s decision, Meta policy VP Kevin Martin praised the move in a statement to The Verge. “We commend the FCC’s decision allowing companies like ours to use new wireless technologies to build the next wave of computing,” he said.
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