FCC Chair Jessica Rosenworcel proposed the new rules, which would authorize very low power (VLP) operations — meaning their signals won’t be able to go very far — in about 850MHz of the spectrum, on September 27th. The rules will also allow devices to “use higher power levels” so long as they’re geofenced to keep from interfering with actual licensed 6GHz usage, and the FCC will be taking comments on other ways it can expand 6GHz spectrum usage by technology devices.
A September Bloomberg report pointed to some of the kinds of devices the FCC’s affirmative vote could open up, including in-car connections, mobile virtual or augmented reality devices, and more.
The FCC originally opened up 1,200MHz of the 6GHz spectrum for unlicensed use by Wi-Fi routers and client devices (think smartphones or laptops), giving home networks far more wireless overhead than existing Wi-Fi standards already had. This new approval expands the spectrum for much more general use.
Several tech companies, including Microsoft, Google, Apple, and Meta, petitioned the FCC to let them access the 6GHz band in 2019. The decision could benefit some of the more difficult projects those companies have been working on, such as AR glasses. Both Apple and Google have had trouble in that arena, as has Meta — which has released smart glasses, sure, but not of the reality-augmenting variety. Opening up extra spectrum gives the companies (and any others that want to) a little more connectivity freedom than they had before.
Meta VP of North American policy Kevin Martin praised the decision 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,” Martin said. “This is a shining example of a government regulator working with industry early to build for the future.”