Next Generation Wi-Fi: Heading Off a 5G Digital Divide with Affordable Connectivity for All

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Mobile broadband providers are beginning to deploy 5th Generation (5G) wireless networks, fueled by thousands of megahertz of high- and mid-band licensed spectrum the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) recently auctioned or will later this year. However, making 5G wireless connectivity available and affordable to all Americans everywhere will depend on opening large new bands of unlicensed spectrum capable of supporting the next generation of gigabit-fast Wi-Fi (Wi-Fi 6).

Building out mobile carrier 5G will be costly, take many years, and focus initially on urban and higher-income areas due to the technical characteristics of the airwaves on which the fastest 5G services will rely. In contrast, Wi-Fi 6 can make 5G-capable connectivity available in any home, business, school, library or public space that has a fiber, cable or other fast fixed-broadband connection. Rural and small town communities will be the biggest beneficiaries. The problem is that spectrum bands available today for Wi-Fi and unlicensed public use are congested and insufficient to power 5G-capable apps and services.

The FCC is expected to vote next month on a proposal to allow Wi-Fi 6 to share 1200 megahertz of underutilized spectrum across the entire 6 GHz band. This new unlicensed spectrum is necessary to make Wi-Fi 6 a pillar of a world-leading 5G ecosystem able to provide the gigabit-fast and affordable capacity needed to connect billions of devices in smart homes, classrooms, public venues and for enterprise IoT networks.

FCC Commissioners Mike O’Rielly and Jessica Rosenworcel will join us to discuss Wi-Fi’s future and the proposals they have championed to authorize more intensive use of the upper 5 GHz and 6 GHz bands. Other speakers will explain why Wi-Fi 6 is a game-changer and address concerns that without sufficient unlicensed spectrum, today’s rural and low-income digital divides could widen, rather than narrow, as we move into the 5G wireless era.

Keynote Discussion:

FCC Commissioner Michael O’Rielly, @mikeofcc

FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, @JRosenworcel


Priscilla Delgado Argeris
Public Policy Manager, Connectivity & Access, Facebook

John Horrigan, @JohnBHorrigan
Senior Fellow, Technology Policy Institute

*Please note: There is a slight video interruption at 04:55. We apologize for the inconvenience.

Paula Boyd, @MicrosoftIPC
Senior Director, Government & Regulatory Affairs, Microsoft

Rosa Mendoza, @allvanza
Founder President & CEO, ALLvanza

AJ Phillips, @AJTechSuper
Director of Information Technology Services, Prince William County Public Schools

Michael Calabrese, @MCalabreseNAF (moderator)
Director, Wireless Future Project, New America’s Open Technology Institute


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