Sustainabilty Benefits of 6 GHz Spectrum Policy © Photo Credit: Yingyaipumi -

Sustainabilty Benefits of 6 GHz Spectrum Policy

WIK analyses on behalf of Wi-Fi Alliance Pros and Cons of 6 GHz Spectrum allocation to Wi-Fi or 5G

WIK-Consult shows significant CO2 savings when Europe allocates the full 6 GHz spectrum to WiFi 6/ 6E or future 7 network use rather than restricting allocation to the lower half of this band only (status quo today), and opening the upper half to 5G instead. Thus Wi-Fi may remain the cordless access to fibre in all homes (FTTH) and supports matching the EC VHCN goals.

The EU Digital Decade Programme seeks to achieve universal coverage of fixed Gigabit technology up to the network termination point (FTTH). Densely populated are additionally supposed to be served by wireless technologies equivalent to 5G performance. The programme also focuses on the potential of digital transformation as critical enablers for attaining the sustainability goals of the European Green Deal. This requires a digital sector improving sustainability of its infrastructure and enabling the digital transformation of industries and societies.

WIK’s demand models suggest that in the coming years, demand for Gigabit bandwidth in the home will increase as will requirements regarding reliability and response time. Delivering on these needs will be crucial as up to 80% of data is estimated to be consumed indoors. However, while the Digital Decade Programme establishes targets for fixed Gigabit connectivity, this is limited to the network termination point. Less attention has been given to ensuring that users can actually make use of the broadband capability delivered by FTTH and receive high quality of service levels indoors, beyond the fixed network termination point. This connectivity is mainly distributed through Wi-Fi connections. However, the capabilities of Wi-Fi are affected by the available spectrum capacity. Lack of accessible spectrum results in congestion among the multitude of Wi-Fi devices streaming data while contending for the same spectrum resource.

The European Union (EU) has opened the lower portion of the 6 GHz band to Wi-Fi, leaving out the upper half. The upcoming World Radio Conference (WRC)-23 will debate designation of the upper 6 GHz band for licensed mobile deployments (e.g., 5G or International Mobile Telecommunications “IMT”). This would be at the expense of Wi-Fi performance needed to support the broadband FTTH connectivity. Spectrum policy decisions about the 6 GHz band will thus affect the balance of broadband capability of FTTH networks vs mobile networks.

This report explores the practicality and environmental impact of using 5G mobile networks versus FTTH/Wi-Fi for indoor broadband coverage and provides recommendations to policymakers.