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Deciding how to allocate spectrum is always a complex decision that inevitably generates controversy on what is the most effective way to meet our connectivity needs and who is best positioned to do so. The choice of a regulatory framework – licensed, lightly-licensed, unlicensed or a mix – depends on who needs and can benefit from the spectrum the most, on the spectrum characteristics, and on the incumbent users, if any.
For the 6 GHz band, the debate has been spirited because of the large amount of spectrum available (1.2 GHz, 5.925-7.125 GHz). Thanks to the limited propagation in the band and technological advancements in spectrum sharing, access can be safely and fairly shared with incumbent users if transmission power is low. 6 GHz is well suited to provide high-capacity coverage in areas with a high concentration of demand – which are often, but not exclusively, indoors, where congestion and degraded performance are most common, and also where low power enables higher frequency reuse.
In this paper, we look at how regulation of the upper 6 GHz band can best meet the connectivity needs of users in dense, mostly indoor locations, and of enterprise, IoT and IIoT applications using low transmission power. Our working assumption is that these are the use cases best served by the 6 GHz band and most in need of additional spectrum.
While licensed and unlicensed regimes are the main contenders, multi-tier or lightly-licensed models are also being considered. However, it is still unclear how effective they could be in the 6 GHz band because of the limited experience with such models. The initial learnings from the US with CBRS – which uses multi-tier access sharing in the 3.5 GHz band – can give us insights into how effective shared access could be in promoting enterprise and venue-based low-power connectivity in the upper 6 GHz band, and into how it compares to licensed and unlicensed regimes.