Fight for the airwaves in your home

With assistance from Derek Robertson

For years, major consumer technology companies Like the Meta, Apple and Google tend to have the government free up small portions of the wireless spectrum as “unlicensed” airwaves – meaning that anyone can use those waves for free.

What exactly next?

These aren’t wireless carriers like AT&T and Verizon — big players bidding huge sums to license portions of spectrum for their own use, competing with other big users like the Pentagon, air traffic control, and radio stations. Some of these tech companies, like Meta, aren’t usually associated with hardware at all, despite their occasional efforts to enter the hardware market.

Their interest in the airwaves says a lot about where they think the future of human communication will be.

And partly inside your home. Bluetooth devices and home routers use “unlicensed” parts of the spectrum, which means anyone can make devices that use those airwaves. Consumer tech companies scored a big win in 2020 when they persuaded the Federal Communications Commission to free up a giant band known as 6GHz for unlicensed use — giving home Wi-Fi devices access to a new bandwidth that boosted their capacity fivefold. More unlicensed spectrum means less congestion for your Wi-Fi network and other devices that send data wirelessly.

These Wi-Fi advocates are now pushing federal regulators in the United States to target entirely new chunks of spectrum — like the adjacent 7GHz band — for unlicensed use, as well as to allow more latitude for how companies use the 6GHz band.

This is a seemingly technological push that could have a huge impact on the next wave of electronics and digital platforms. Anyone shopping for wireless routers can already see them in the consumer market — just as cell phones have generations like 4G and 5G, there are also generations of Wi-Fi technology. Home routers typically use what’s called “Wi-Fi 5” and “Wi-Fi 6,” and the industry has already revamped standards for Wi-Fi 6 devices to take advantage of the new 6GHz spectrum. (Wi-Fi 6 routers capable of taking advantage of this newly available spectrum are branded “Wi-Fi 6E” and rolled out quickly.)

At CES this month, home networking companies TP-Link and MediaTek promoted displays built around next one A set of Wi-Fi standards, called Wi-Fi 7, though these standards are still a work in progress.

“Every single carrier that I’m familiar with — the major carrier, the one in the US or Europe — has 6GHz Wi-Fi in their roadmap, whether it’s Wi-Fi 6E or Wi-Fi 7,” says Chris Szymanski, who manages product marketing. at chip maker Broadcom.

So what does this mean for consumers? And why do you care about Meta?

The primary goal of these tech companies and their allies in lobbying for unlicensed spectrum, such as cable operators, is to free up a pipeline of available and unlicensed frequencies to enable the massive amounts of data transmission needed for future applications such as augmented and virtual reality, as well as what Szymanski calls a “free experience.” of mistakes.”

As a political debate, the fight to prioritize Wi-Fi And other unauthorized uses of airwaves are central to current spectrum arguments in Washington, and their outcome could dictate the next several years of US technology policy. Congress is negotiating a package of spectrum legislation looking forward to these issues, which is still in a state of great flux but tied to the FCC’s reauthorization of spectrum powers that is set to expire in March.

And that debate is likely to be central to the Biden administration’s promised National Spectrum Strategy, which could come out this year, and sets targets for how airwaves can get into private hands.

Naturally, there is a pressure war on this part of the future, Since there is a lot of spectrum to run around.

The whole thing is turning out to be — broadly — an argument between the big telcos that want more spectrum to carry their cellular signals, and the consumer tech companies and cable companies that want to make sure there’s a wide open field for device innovation.

Large wireless carriers would prefer that the government sell more licensed spectrum to support 5G and future 6G cellular services. Airwaves are considered a public resource, so government sales of licensed spectrum also raise more money to pay down the US national debt, they say, and those billions of dollars could go toward supporting the country’s digital goals.

“You have to factor in revenue,” Tom Bauer, general counsel for cellular commerce group CTIA, told me late last year. “If you’re not licensing spectrum, you’re giving up that revenue. It’s a cost to the government if you don’t catch up.”

The next frontier of the argument is likely to allow mobile devices such as smartphones to freely use these 6GHz airwaves, which could prompt mobile applications to assist a group of people on the move, such as commuters and commuters. Europe and many other countries are already allowing this, according to Broadcom’s Szymanski, who notes that the US, as an early adopter market, could shape what comes next.

“You won’t see metaverse-like applications, such as augmented reality, take off until mobile devices are licensed,” Szymanski predicted. “We hope to be able to enable mobile operations by the end of this year.”

One of the leading voices in the Republican Party in the cryptocurrency space gossip today Morning Money Newsletter Around First Financial Services Subcommittee dedicated to this topic.

Speaking with Politico’s Zachary Warmbrot, Rep. French Hill (R-Ark) said his vision for the committee is to guide the development and spread of blockchain “in a manner consistent with US laws, traditions, and business practices.”

Hill referred to the stablecoin legislation as a “logical starting point” for the new Congress, noting “how the staff and our entire House Republican team, all members, were very engaged last August and into October working with House Democrats on an idea around definitions and regulations.” stablecoin.”

However, it also echoed something that Kristen Smith, president of the Blockchain Association, predicted when I spoke with her earlier this month: that the collapse of FTX would actually make cryptocurrency regulated. more complicatedIn Hill’s words, “… Congress also has many different views after the collapse of FTX.” –Derek Robertson

A piece of information from the depths of the regulatory state: The Bureau of Financial Research, an office within the Treasury Department that was mostly dormant during and after Trump’s presidency, has a new chief.

Politico’s Victoria Guide News covered For Yesterday’s Pro subscribers, Ron Borzkowski, former Chief of Staff at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, will take over. Borzykowski has deep knowledge of the kind of unexpected events that led to the 2008 financial crisis — in fact, Victoria notes, he was a senior economist at the Federal Reserve who helped write the official report on the 2008 financial crisis.

Which, for DFD purposes, is particularly relevant: the Office of Financial Research called last month For more granular data about cryptocurrency lenders, it is better to understand whether or how the turmoil in the digital markets could affect the traditional markets. –Derek Robertson