6GHz Regulations in Canada

In Canada, Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada (ISED) published a Consultation on the Technical and Policy Framework for Licence-Exempt Use in the 6 GHz Band in November 2020.

In May 2021, ISED published the Decision on Technical and Policy Framework for licence-Exempt Use in the 6GHz Band. This document outlines the new 6GHz regulations in Canada.

In this article, ISED’s decisions have been summarized. We also talk about what it will mean for Wi-Fi use in the 6GHz band in Canada.

6GHz REGULATIONS SUMMARY

So ISED proposed to allow licence-exempt operations in the 6GHz for three classes of RLANS:

  • Standard-power RLANs (both indoor and outdoor) with automated frequency coordination (AFC) control
  • Low-power indoor-only RLANs without AFC control
  • Very low-power RLANs (both indoor and outdoor) without AFC control

The following table presents the different set of regulations introduced for the 6GHz band in Canada (click to enlarge):

RLAN: Radio Local Area Network. These networks would include, but not be limited, to Wi-Fi networks. Some 5G networks could also benefit from the 6GHz spectrum.

AFC: Automated Frequency Coordination. System that controls the operations of the standard-powered APs. ISED has not yet decided on which AFC system they will be using. They will adopt an AFC system that is practical, consistent with the Canadian public interest and harmonized with the U.S. to the maximum extent possible.

EIRP: Equivalent Isotropically Radiated Power. Maximum amount of power that could be radiated from an antenna. This takes into account the transmit power of the RF transmitter as well as the antenna gain.

PSD: Power Spectral Density. It tells us how the power is distributed in frequency (dBm/MHz).

6GHz WI-FI CHANNELS

The following table presents the different channels that will be available for Wi-Fi use in the 6GHz frequency band in Canada (click to enlarge):

Wi-Fi 6E compatible devices will be able to take advantage of that additional spectrum. We could use up to 59x additional 20MHz channels, 29x 40Mhz channels,  14x 80MHz wide channels and 7x 160MHz wide channels.

These channels are not defined by ISED but are defined by the 802.11ax standard. Take a look at this document put together by Josh Schmelzle that details the different 6GHz channels: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1C7RxH1R3aRgvO0aeL-b79n6_W5vbcMVynqW9FlDZoLg/edit#gid=1958479420

As Wi-Fi 7 comes along, we might be able to use 3x 320MHz wide channels.

ALL ISED DECISIONS

Here are the decisions outlined in the publication published from ISED on May 19th, 2021:

  1. ISED will allow licence-exempts RLAN use in the 5925-7125 MHz band.
  2. ISED will update the CTFA by adding the footnote Cxx: Licence-exempt RLAN applications in the 5925-7125 MHz band must operate in accordance with the established spectrum policy and technical framework; and must not cause harmful interference to, or claim protection from, licensed systems operating in the band.
  3. Standard-power RLANs under the control of an AFC system will be permitted to operate on a licence-exempt basis in the 5925-6875 MHz frequency range.
  4. Low-power indoor-only RLANs will be permitted to operate on a licence-exempt basis across the 5925-7125 MHz band with the use of a contention-based protocol (e.g. listen-before-talk).
  5. Indoor and outdoor very low-power RLAN devices will be permitted to operate on a licence-exempt basis across the 5925-7125 MHz band with the use of a contention-based protocol (e.g. listen-before-talk).
  6. ISED will adopt an AFC system that is practical, consistent with the Canadian public interest and harmonized with the U.S. to the maximum extent possible.
  7. Canadian AFC rules will include a requirement to protect licensed fixed service systems and radioastronomy sites.

WHAT DOES IT MEAN FOR WI-FI?

Canada, as most countries in the Americas, have decided to allow licence-exempt use in the entire 6GHz band (5925-7125MHz). This is great news for Wi-Fi as it will clearly benefit from it.

Wi-Fi has already been certified to be able to operate on these frequencies by using the IEEE 802.11ax protocol and the Wi-Fi 6E certification. Some Wi-Fi 6E devices are already available on the market today (such as the Samsung Galaxy S21).

As ISED still has to choose which AFC system to use, I don’t anticipate any standard-power solution being implemented in the near future. We may start to see them being deployed starting later next year (2022).

However, as most enterprise vendors are about to released their first generation of Wi-Fi 6E access points, I anticipate us starting seeing deployments of LPI (Low Power Indoor) and VLP (Very Low Power) systems in the near future (maybe before the end of 2021).

The regulations for LPI (Low Power Indoor) and VLP (Very Low Power) require the use of a contention-based protocol (listen before talk). Wi-Fi has been operating this way for years now and seems to be the perfect option.

WHAT ABOUT 5G?

Wi-Fi will not be the only candidate technology to be using this 6GHz frequency band. We can also expect to see 5G New Radio-Unlicensed (NR-U) communications.

On the 5G side, the standards are not yet finalized so we are not expecting to see the technology used right away. However, the 6GHz spectrum could be a great opportunity for cellular operators to have some free spectrum to use for some of their 5G traffic.

It will be interesting to see how 5G NR-U will cohabit with Wi-Fi. I would expect to see the AFC play a crucial role there.

RESOURCES

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