Jun 21 2024

Outdoor Networking’s Next Leap Forward Comes to Higher Ed

Federal approval of automated frequency coordination in the 6-gigahertz band brings Wi-Fi 6E beyond campus walls.

The Federal Communications Commission’s approval of automated frequency coordination in the 6-gigahertz band signified a major step forward for outdoor wireless connectivity in higher education.

The February decision to green light the seven AFC applications was “critical to allowing standard power Wi-Fi to being operating in the 6GHz band,” the FCC wrote in a press release.

In practice, it all means that the vastly improved density load and reliable connectivity promised by Wi-Fi 6E can now be enjoyed outdoors without risk of interference with essential wireless communications, opening the door to a wave of new outdoor wireless implementations ready for deployment at universities around the country.

Click the banner below to see how CDW’s expertise is helping higher education institutions bring Wi-Fi 6E outside.


A New Era of Wi-Fi Connectivity

The introduction of Wi-Fi 6E in 2021 also marked the introduction of the 6GHz band to the wireless spectrum, which meant a massive amount of additional bandwidth was now available to users. That new bandwidth can connect more users with more devices in tighter spaces with more access points than had previously been possible with any other wireless iteration.

The catch was that the 6GHz band was limited to low-power indoor use — until now. February’s approval allows for standard power operations — about 10 times more powerful transmission than LPI — thanks to coordination between incumbent users and seven vendor entities whose applications were approved.

Incumbent users refers to those who were already operating on the 6GHz band, even before the introduction of Wi-Fi 6E, to conduct essential infrastructure operations and allow those users to deploy radar systems, satellite services, weather monitoring, public safety communication, TV broadcasts, utility operations and more without fear of interference. Interference with those operations, of course, could have dire consequences, which is where the regulatory responsibilities of the FCC become part of the conversation. Any Wi-Fi 6E deployment needs to guarantee it will not generate any interference with the incumbent users’ operations, and AFC was designed to do just that.

RELATED: Five important design issues to consider when upgrading to Wi-Fi 6E.

Bringing Wi-Fi 6E Networking Outside in Higher Ed

In February, seven providers had their AFC mechanisms approved: Broadcom, Comsearch, Federated Wireless, Qualcomm, Sony, the Wi-Fi Alliance and the Wireless Broadband Alliance.

Meanwhile, in the months leading up to the FCC approval, wireless vendors had already begun unveiling access points allowing for standard power operation in the 6GHz band, including Cisco, HPE Aruba, Extreme Networks, Juniper Networks and others.

Providing students, faculty and staff uninterrupted connectivity throughout campus is a priority for higher education institutions, and the ability to now bring Wi-Fi 6E to outdoor spaces offers colleges and universities the chance to upgrade that connection, something that does not go unnoticed by prospective and current students who have grown up in an always-connected world.

Bringing Wi-Fi 6E outdoors could also have major impacts on stadium operations, where a bevy of new tech tools are allowing universities to use artificial intelligence to improve the fan experience and maximize revenue. Those AI tools and others have their own networking demands that could now be easier to meet with the power of 6E.

Before moving forward with new outdoor access points to take advantage of the 6GHz band, however, universities should be confident they fully understand the wireless infrastructure they currently have in place and how it’s being used. A network assessment and wireless site survey can help university leaders understand their existing operations and identify the right locations to place the new access points.

Once the needs are identified, engaging an experienced and trusted partner to begin designing networks for optimal performance and reliability can get the project off on the right foot.

UP NEXT: Wi-Fi 6E requires compatible cabling. Here’s what you’ll need.

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