On 3 March 2022 the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) released a class licence variation for Low Interference Potential Devices, specifically Radio Local Area Network (LAN) transmitters. Thanks to Aaron Scott for beginning the spread of the news on Twitter!
This essentially approves the 5925-6425 MHz (U-NII 5) frequency band for Wi-Fi use in Australia, which will adopt the use of IEEE 802.11ax / Wi-Fi 6E protocol capabilities with WPA3 and Enhanced Open security features. In this update I will be specifically referring to the Low Power Indoor (LPI) class of Wi-Fi 6E wireless access points and regulations.
Updated: Radio Spectrum Management NZ Approves U-NII 5!
On August 1 2022 the NZ radio regulatory body, RSM, also announced support for the lower 500 MHz U-NII 5 band for Wi-Fi 6E LPI devices! https://www.rsm.govt.nz/projects-and-auctions/completed-projects/wlan-use-in-the-6-ghz-band
What is Wi-Fi 6E?
If the analogy for the improvements of IEEE 802.11ax / Wi-Fi 6 is multiple types of vehicles benefitting from more efficient use of multiple lanes on a bridge, then the analogy for what Wi-Fi 6E brings is new shiny bridges with only 2021-2022 model sports cars allowed! No slowdowns from old bangers or vehicles broken down taking up precious road capacity.
I’m not going to go deep into the details of the benefits and features of Wi-Fi 6E (6 GHz) and what is different from Wi-Fi 6 (2.4 & 5 GHz), however I recommend checking out the following resources with a good overview:
Essentially as it applies to Australia we will have an additional 500 MHz of spectrum for Wi-Fi (potentially more in future if the ACMA approves 6425-7125 MHz), which will provide additional channel capacity for high density LPI deployments.
What is Power Spectral Density?
Again I will defer to already excellent resources on the topic of EIRP vs Power Spectral Density and how we have designed and operated Wi-Fi networks up until now. However, I do wish to illustrate how the regulatory limits apply to LPI Wi-Fi 6E usage in Australia and the channel allocations we will have.
OK… so what does the ACMA and RSM allow?
Given the regulatory limit of net EIRP being 250 mW (or technically 23.98 dBm) for U-NII-5 in Australia and New Zealand, the below table indicates the Constant PSD (12.5 mW / MHz, or 11 dBm / MHz) with increasing channel width.
|Channel Width||PSD||EIRP||Noise Floor||Net/Limit EIRP||Available Channels AU/NZ|
|20 MHz||11 dBm/MHz||24 dBm||24 dBm||25|
|40 MHz||11 dBm/MHz||27 dBm||+3 dBm||24 dBm||12|
|80 MHz||11 dBm/MHz||30 dBm||+6 dBm||24 dBm||6|
|160 MHz||11 dBm/MHz||33 dBm||+9 dBm||24 dBm||3|
As the ACMA and RSM have approved on 500 MHz (similar to ETSI in EU and other domains), we can expect 20 and 40 MHz wide channels to be commonly used with Wi-Fi 6E in 6 GHz.
Even 6 non-overlapping 80 MHz channels still gives decent channel re-use with limited protocol contention overhead from co-channel interference, given that Wi-Fi 6E will only support IEEE 802.11ax-capable clients with no impact of backwards compatibility to older Wi-Fi protocols. In addition the 80 MHz (best practice) primary channels align perfectly with the Preferred Scanning Channels (PSC) across the 6 GHz bands (more on that in Wes’ presentation below).
Unfortunately that means we can’t realistically make use of 320 MHz wide channels as we can only fit one non-overlapping in 500 MHz of available spectrum.
Most enterprise networking vendors already have Wi-Fi 6E capable access points on the market, including the Juniper Mist AP45 and AP34 Series Wireless Access Points.
Like with any new spectrum and access point, there will be a homologation and certification process undertaken by each AP vendor to ensure conformity to radio regulations, and also to confirm interoperability with the Wi-Fi Alliance standards. In New Zealand this requires the compliance certification process which allows the labelling of approved equipment with the Regulatory Compliance Mark (RCM) or the R-NZ: https://www.rsm.govt.nz/business-individuals/supplier-compliance/steps/step-7/
WARNING: Even if your Wi-Fi 6E access point does have the RCM label then it may have only been assessed against previous 2.4 and 5 GHz compliance, and not necessarily homologated/approved for 6 GHz use! This is especially true for Wi-Fi 6E access points manufactured for use in AU and NZ before September 2022.
I expect to see some Wi-Fi 6E APs start to appear in Australia around the middle of 2022 with others later in the year, and we will begin to see more Wi-Fi 6E clients later this year.
I’m betting the iPhone 14 will support Wi-Fi 6E.
I also sincerely hope the ACMA approves the other 700 MHz of spectrum for U-NII-6 through to 8 not just for Wi-Fi 6E, but this will also allow support for beneficial features in future standards such as IEEE 802.11be / Wi-Fi 7.
I highly recommend checking out this presentation by Wes at WLPC 2022 on 6 GHz design.
It is also worth considering a refresh of your wired network given Wi-Fi 6E will demand PoE++/802.3bt power, and Multigigabit Ethernet will now be a requirement not just a dream.
And lastly (with my vendor hat on) – there’s never been a better time to consider moving to the leading Wireless and Wired LAN solutions to deliver amazing user experiences for your customers and users, driven by Mist AI and unhindered from legacy controllers, clouds, and protocols with Wi-Fi 6E.