January 19, 2022

    Today, Wi-Fi is helping create a wireless superhighway for our homes and businesses. It brings gaming, communication, video and much more to a new level – offering faster response times and a higher level of capacity. Here, Igor Lalicevic provides some understanding of how today's Wi-Fi standards and features are being implemented across Europe (EU) – to help you understand how to design your Wi-Fi product.

     

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    How does the Wi-Fi Alliance affect and manage the Wi-Fi standard in the EU?

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    The Wi-Fi Alliance is a consortium of semiconductor companies, operators, end customers, and other organizations in the Wi-Fi ecosystem. Its goal is to collaborate, facilitate and promote open wireless communications using Wi-Fi standards-based networking technologies.

    The Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE) writes the standards that dictate Wi-Fi technical specifications. From these specifications, the Wi-Fi Alliance develops testing plans, services, and certification programs. This ensures Wi-Fi products meet specification guidelines that are compatible with each other and deliver the expected performance and capability.

    The Alliance is the international advocate for the global Wi-Fi communications we now use in our homes, companies, across cities, and in private and public venues, like cafés, stadiums, etc.

    Even though Wi-Fi is used for local area networking of global devices and worldwide internet access, there are different regional requirements in adopted Wi-Fi frequency, permitted Wi-Fi channels and maximum allowed transmission power (EIRP) per country. EIRP is the maximum amount of power that an antenna array can radiate given the antenna's gain and the RF subsystem's transmitter power.

    It is crucial to understand the difference between standards and regulations.

    • Products must comply with technical conditions to operate in a specific band, which is defined by regulations.
    • To guarantee that products placed on the European market comply with regulations, we use standards.

    In Europe, ETSI (European Telecommunications Standards Institute) is the official recognized body responsible for the standardization of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT).

    The European Standard ETSI documents specify maximum WLAN transmission power levels in Europe. The European regulation outlined in these ETSI documents defines frequency allocation and the amount of 6 GHz spectrum that has been designated for Wi-Fi 6E products.

    For example, on Jan 17, 2020, the United Kingdom (UK) regulator Ofcom released a proposal for improving spectrum access to Wi-Fi. Ofcom proposed opening 480 MHz (5945 – 6425 MHz) for Wi-Fi spectrum at 6 GHz for unlicensed use in Europe. For reference, this 6 GHz spectrum in the US is 5925 – 7125 MHz.

    Each European Commission directive, like the one from Ofcom, contains a deadline by which EU countries must incorporate the provision into each EU countries' national legislation and inform the Commission to that effect. This date is called the implementation date, and in the case of the lower 6 GHz band proposal of Ofcom, the date was December 1, 2021.

    The Wi-Fi Alliance's role is to help create programs and universal trust in the EU. Additionally, the Alliance identifies and promotes new use cases for Wi-Fi.

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    What do you see as the Wi-Fi Alliance's most significant challenge with implementing Wi-Fi in the EU?

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    As Wi-Fi continues to increase spectrum – capturing the higher frequencies above 5 GHz – it encroaches on the spectrum held by other services. Incumbent services like transport and fixed satellite systems are the biggest challenges for Wi-Fi implementation in the EU. These services operate above 5 GHz and are closely aligned to Wi-Fi.

    Transport

    • For trains, the new Communications-Based Train Control (CBTC) system will increase capacity, efficiency, and safety. This system takes trains from an old, less reliable wired system to a more dependable wireless-based system. The CBTC network operates between 5905 and 5935 MHz spectrum up to the guard-band 5945 MHz. This is primarily 30 MHz of spectrum in the Unlicensed National Information Infrastructure 4 (U-NII-4) band up to the start of the U-NII-5 band. CBTC spectrum is closely aligned with the U-NII-3 5 GHz Wi-Fi band, ending at 5850 MHz. To guarantee coexistence is maintained, proper filtering must be employed to ensure no interference between the Wi-Fi and CBTC spectrum.
    • For automobiles, the challenge is the intelligent transportation systems (ITS) standard ITS-G5. Globally, the 5G Automotive Association (5GAA), a cross-industry association of the telecoms and automotive industry, promotes C-V2X (Cellular – vehicle-to-everything). C-V2X is cellular-based and allows automobiles to communicate via the cellular network system. It has many backers globally, like Ford, Ericsson, Qualcomm, Intel, and Samsung. However, in the EU, it is a different story. EU's CAR 2 CAR Communication Consortium advocates the Wi-Fi protocol IEEE 802.11p and related standard ITS-G5. Although some advocate an amenable coexistence of both approaches, it is still being debated.

    Satellite

    • Not only is the Wi-Fi ecosystem calling regulators to consider license-exempt access to the upper 6 GHz band, but satellite operators are as well. Satellite operators are playing a pivotal role in expanding wireless connectivity. In the EU, the EMEA Satellite Operators Associations (ESOA) has submitted an input contribution encouraging ATU administrations to assess the need to use the 6425 MHz to 7125 MHz bands for Wi-Fi applications. Below is the list of satellite frequencies that Wi-Fi must comply with.
      • 6425 – 6525 MHz Fixed
      • 6525 – 7075 MHz Fixed – space-to-earth / earth-to-space
      • 6700 – 7075 MHz Fixed-satellite – space-to-earth
      • 7075 – 7250 MHz Fixed

     

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    Are Wi-Fi power levels different in the EU compared to the US? If so, how does Qorvo address the differences and challenges they bring?

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    Different Wi-Fi radio bands throughout the globe require unique regulatory power limits. Each device you buy must not exceed any power limits set by the regulatory domain you want to deploy it in. In the EU, ETSI defines power limits for Wi-Fi. In the EU, the power levels are actually lower than in the US. This presents challenges of RF range but is beneficial to reducing Europe's carbon footprint and increasing gateway power efficiency.

    For example, the 2.4 GHz band limit is set to 20 dBm (100 mW), while in the US, the FCC power limits for the 2.4 GHz band are a bit higher at 30 dBm (1 W). Additionally, in the EU, channels 12 and 13 are used, while in the US, these channels are not used. For 5 GHz Wi-Fi, the US FCC sets higher power limits than the EU. For example, in the U-NII-1 band, the FCC limit is 30 dBm while the EU limit is 23 dBm. Below is a high-level comparison of the 2.4 and 5 GHz Wi-Fi limits in the EU and US.

    FCC
    Federal Communications Commission

    ETSI
    European Telecommunications Standards Institute

    Maximum Power Levels from AP @ 2.4 GHz

    30 dBm (1 W)

    20 dBm (100 mW)

    Maximum Power Levels @ 5 GHz

    U-NII-1 AP: 30 dBm (1 W)

    U-NII-1 (w/o TCP /DFS): 23 dBm (200 mW)

    U-NII-1 Client Device: 24 dBm (250 mW)

    U-NII-2A (w/o TCP): 20 dBm (100 mW)

    U-NII-2A & U-NII-2C: 23 dBm (200 mW)

    U-NII-2C (w/o TCP /DFS): 20 dBm (100 mW)

    U-NII-3: 30 dBm (1 W)

    U-NII-3 (SRD): 14 dBm (25 mW)

    The challenges this presents to Qorvo are minimal. Qorvo typically develops its Wi-Fi products for several globally specified power levels, and many of these products can be tuned via matching to reduce power level requirements if required.

    For the newer bands above 5 GHz, like the 6 GHz band for spectrum in Europe, two device classes were defined, and unlike with the 5 GHz band, there are no restrictions related to Dynamic Frequency Selection (DFS). But there are different maximum transmission power limits set for continental Europe and the UK. For the Very Low Power (VLP) devices, the max transmission power limit is set to 14dBm (25mW) EIRP for continental Europe — both indoor and outdoor. The UK outdoor limits are the same, but the indoor max transmission power limit is set to 24dBm (250mW) EIRP. In addition, for Low Power Indoor (LPI) devices, the max transmission power limit is set to 23dBm (200mW) EIRP for continental Europe, while for the UK, the limit is set to 24dBm (250mW) EIRP.

     

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    What do you see as being a key hurdle for meeting Wi-Fi 6E and 7 speed and capacity goals in Europe?

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    Globally, only 44% of broadband connections are above 50 Mbps. For many years, connectivity capacity and speed were bottlenecked at the home premises. In the UK and western EU, they are targeting a minimum 85% fiber coverage (fiber to the premise allowing Gigabyte capable connection) by the year 2025! This is great news for Wi-Fi growth, but today, the fiber coverage is 24% in the UK and 43% in western EU – so there is much work to be done to meet the 2025 goal. To see the full benefit of Wi-Fi 6 and Wi-Fi 7 gateways, this fiber connection needs to be in place. The Wi-Fi evolution of Wi-Fi 6 / 6E is seen as a solution to allow a near-fiber experience at the end device — delivering speeds of ~10 Gbps using 8x8 MIMO and 160 MHz channels. At the same time, Wi-Fi 7 (which is coming around 2024) targets the fiber experience at the end device and will achieve a total connectivity target of 30Gbps using 320 MHz channels. Using Wi-Fi 7 will bring more speed and lower latency to Wi-Fi.

     

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    How do the Wi-Fi Alliance and manufacturing organizations work with the EU and regulatory agencies in the EU?

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    The Wi-Fi Alliance in the European, Middle East, and Africa (EMEA) region responds to regulatory activities and authorities the same way the FCC does in the US. Typically, there is a formal response to consultations of regulatory institutions and targeted contributions from the Wi-Fi Alliance individual working groups when deemed beneficial. The Wi-Fi Alliance has regular meetings with the European Commission, which companies like Qorvo attend. Members of the Wi-Fi Alliance attend some regulatory bodies' meetings carrying the opinion from the regulatory meeting into these European Commission meetings. Qorvo is a regular participant in the regulatory groups and meetings in EMEA. There are also recommendations for Wi-Fi Alliance members like Qorvo to write responses to actions discussed during these meetings.

     

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    What is seen as the Wi-Fi Alliance's vision of the future?

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    A primary function of the Wi-Fi Alliance is to promote wireless technologies and interoperability throughout its ecosystem – with the focus on boosting innovation and fostering ecosystem growth of new generations like Wi-Fi 6 / 6E and 7.

    The Wi-Fi Alliance's vision is more than 3.5 billion Wi-Fi 6 product shipments in 2022. The Wi-Fi Alliance expects nearly 20% of all Wi-Fi 6 device shipments will support 6 GHz by this year, with 5.2 billion Wi-Fi 6 product shipments by 2025, 41% of which will be Wi-Fi 6E devices.

    The Wi-Fi 6E frequency expansion via Wi-Fi 6 / 6E standard has enabled a truly connected smart home, with the capacity for various users and connected devices streaming simultaneously at multi-gigabit Wi-Fi speeds.

     

    Igor's Final Thoughts

    It's easy to see why the internet is considered the most important invention in modern times. It affects almost every aspect of our lives – with nearly five billion people using the internet daily. This is 63.2% of the total human population!

    From 2000 to 2020, the internet usage increased by 1266%. In Europe, 782 million people access the internet daily, translating into 87% of the EU population second to North America's 90.3% penetration rate.

    Wi-Fi is following this same internet trend and is, therefore, an exciting time for Wi-Fi! From the first Wi-Fi 802.11 standard in 1997, we have witnessed a 1000-fold increase in throughput. The new Wi-Fi 6E and the soon-to-come Wi-Fi 7 standard are revolutionizing wireless connections. They enable fiber-like speeds at the device level, opening the door for a new connectivity era and making Qorvo's long-term "one pod per room" vision a reality.

     

     

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    About the Author

    Igor Lalicevic
    Senior Marketing Manager, Wireless Connectivity Business Unit

    With over 20 years of experience in the wireless industry, Igor helps Qorvo engineering teams create state-of-the-art RF components and solutions. He inspires the creation of new wireless connectivity products and ecosystem advancements that help customers bring their wireless innovations to life.