Wi-Fi Alliance stakes its claim to the 6 GHz band

The 6 GHz band is expected to be made available in unlicensed form soon and the Wi-Fi Alliance thinks it’s a good fit for Wi-Fi 6.

While wifi most commonly uses the 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz bands, it’s always keen for more. With the advent of 5G and the auction of other higher frequency bands for mobile, especially the mid 3 GHz bands, wifi has increasingly come into direct competition with cellular for bandwidth. 5G seems to have a limitless appetite for such stuff, so the Wi-Fi Alliance seems to be planting its flag early for the 6 GHz band.

Specifically this takes the form of a sub-brand called Wi-Fi 6E, which will be used to designate devices that support connectivity over that frequency. The Alliance reckons regulators will offer up this band in unlicensed form fairly soon and it will represent a rare opportunity for the wifi ecosystem to expand its spectrum portfolio.

“6 GHz will help address the growing need for wifi spectrum capacity to ensure wifi users continue to receive the same great user experience with their devices,” said Edgar Figueroa, CEO of the Wi-Fi Alliance. “Wi-Fi Alliance is introducing Wi-Fi 6E now to ensure the industry aligns on common terminology, allowing wifi users to identify devices that support 6 GHz operation as the spectrum becomes available.”

“If the regulatory landscape permits, we expect companies to move forward aggressively with products that operate in 6 GHz because they understand the tremendous value brought to their customers by this portion of unlicensed spectrum,” said Phil Solis, Research Director at IDC. “If spectrum is made available early this year, we expect momentum of products that support operation in 6 GHz to ramp very quickly.”

The Alliance expects consumer routers to be the first to use 6 GHz, but its propagation characteristics are presumably pretty rubbish so you wouldn’t want to rely on that spectrum unless you were fairly close to the router and ideally in the same room. It could be handy for mesh wifi nodes though.

Wifi industry consolidation as Fon acquires XCellAir

Spanish wifi aggregator Fon has acquired carrier wifi specialist XcellAir from Interdigital to boost its Fontech B2B arm.

XcellAir was launched by telecoms R&D firm InterDigital in 2015 to help operators make the most of wifi and unlicensed spectrum in general in reinforcing their LTE signals. Fontech offers software-based solutions designed to help operators and enterprise manage wifi, so there’s a clear overlap here. On top of that Fon is lauding the geographical benefits of acquiring a US-based team.

Fontech will be incorporating XCellAir’s core product, the cloud-based XCellRAN carrier wifi solution, into its portfolio. It apparently features whizzy tech such as SON and radio resource management that offer carrier-grade control and analytics for wifi.

“We have known XCellAir for a long time and have always been impressed by their product, vision, and team, which are all complementary to Fon,” said Alex Puregger, CEO of Fon. “We are very excited to welcome them to Fon. The acquisition of XCellAir will further boost our technology and product leadership in the area of operator-managed wifi.”

“We are proud to have established XCellAir as a leader in the wifi management and optimization space and, in particular, enabling operators to deliver the best home wifi experience,” said Amit Agarwal, CEO of XcellAir. “The acquisition of XCellAir by Fon enables us to take the business to the next-level, immediately increasing scale and global reach. The entire team is excited to join the Fon family.”

They don’t explicitly say so but the last quote implies Agarwal is hanging around, at least for a bit. If you haven’t tired of generic M&A canned quotes you may derive some pleasure from the video of Puregger explaining the deal below. This move will presumably concern other wifi aggregators such as Devicescape and we wouldn’t rule out further consolidation in this area.