60 GHz Wi-Fi Gets FCC Stamp of Approval

Credit: ShutterstockCredit: ShutterstockQualcomm and Facebook are no longer alone in their push for Wi-Fi operating on a 60 GHz band. DigiTimes today reported that Sporton, a testing and certification company, partnered with Qualcomm to push 802.11ay products through the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

For anyone who hasn't been keeping up with the various Wi-Fi protocols: 802.11ay uses the 60 GHz band to offer improved capacity, reduced latency and faster speeds than protocols that rely on the 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz bands. Qualcomm announced the first chipsets--two "for infrastructure and fixed wireless access" and two "for mobile applications"--designed for the protocol in October.

Those chipsets (and the 802.11ay protocol) could be popular in many product categories. Facebook wants to use it to offer wireless Internet access via its Terragraph project, for example, while companies like Asus are keen on Qualcomm's promise of "wire-equivalent latencies." That prospect is expected to appeal to VR and AR companies, enable 4K resolution streaming and improve Internet of Things (IoT) devices.

802.11ay hasn't exactly been rushed to market, though, with many companies focusing on the 802.11ax protocol instead. That protocol operates on band spectrums between 1 GHz and 7 GHz when they become available. Using those bands (along with other improvements) is supposed to allow compatible devices to maintain strong Wi-Fi connections even when they're on a particularly congested network.

Manufacturers showed off 802.11ax products at CES in January. Also that month, the Wi-Fi Alliance made 802.11ax part of a new branding system meant to make it easier for consumers to know what kind of Wi-Fi a given product supports. The switch was simple: 802.11n became Wi-Fi 4, 802.11ac became Wi-Fi 5 and 802.11ay became Wi-Fi 6. Ta-da! Now things are easier to understand.

802.11ay didn't even get a new moniker. Sporton's interest in the protocol could hint at a surge in popularity, however, with DigiTimes saying the company expects "rising demand for analyzing and testing related IC materials and components supporting a wide range of 5G and AIoT [Artificial Intelligence of Things] applications starting the second half of 2019." Put another way: there should finally be 802.11ay products for Sporton to certify.