FCC approves 6 GHz AFC systems from Plume, 12 others to progress into testing

Nov. 7, 2022
The FCC's conditional approval confirms Plume as one of the first wave of tech companies to develop and test automated frequency control (AFC) systems that optimize the use of the 6 GHz WiFi channel in the home for supporting WiFi 6E data rates and above.

Plume on Nov. 3 announced that it has been selected by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) as one of the first cohort of industry players to proceed with the testing of automated frequency control (AFC) systems in the United States in the 6 GHz frequency band. Globally, Plume notes that its cloud-based control system serves more than 43 million homes and already supports WiFi 6E, allowing low-power transmission in the 6 GHz band.

The FCC’s recent rule changes expanded unlicensed use in the 5.925-6.425 GHz and 6.525-6.875 GHz portions of the 6 GHz band to allow standard-power devices under the control of an AFC. New applications often require greater throughput which this additional spectrum coupled with higher power will deliver. Wi-Fi 6E builds upon previous Wi-Fi updates and makes use of wider channels to provide gigabit-plus speeds, more simultaneous connections, and better security.

A Nov. 2 FCC Public Notice conditionally approved AFC systems proposed by:

  • Plume Design
  • Broadcom
  • Google
  • Comsearch
  • Sony Group
  • Kyrio
  • Key Bridge Wireless
  • Nokia Innovations
  • Federated Wireless
  • Wireless Broadband Alliance
  • Wi-Fi Alliance (WFA)
  • Qualcomm
  • RED Technologies

The FCC’s Office of Engineering and Technology conditionally approved the thirteen proposed AFC database systems to finalize development for operations in the 6 GHz band and prepare for the testing phase. These AFC systems manage spectrum access for 6 GHz band standard-power unlicensed devices. Unlicensed devices operating at standard power levels will use the AFC systems to adjust operating parameters to protect microwave links that operate in the band from harmful interference.

“American businesses and households rely on Wi-Fi for work, school, access to healthcare, and connecting with friends and family,” said FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel. “We are moving forward on our plan to open doors for next generation, faster, better Wi-Fi – including Wi-Fi 6E and laying the groundwork for Wi-Fi 7. This is good news and real progress.”

The FCC’s conditional approval allows Plume, along with the other 12 WiFi industry leaders, to proceed with testing their AFC systems. Once fully approved, Plume would be among the first to integrate an AFC system into its products and services, providing its access points (APs) with the highest transmit power level possible.

Why does AFC matter?

Plume in a statement noted that the AFC system helps WiFi APs utilize the highest transmit power level possible by querying the FCC database to calculate the power level that an AP can transmit without interfering with point-to-point microwave links.

With the AFC system integrated into Plume’s SaaS experience platform, the WiFi 6E devices connected to each AP will utilize the frequency channels that provide the highest performance, factoring the interference levels and the higher transmit powers allowed by AFC. This will have the overall effect of improving WiFi range and data throughput rates, resulting in an improved connected device experience.

What will AFC mean for service providers and consumers? For consumers, the change has the potential to deliver more reliable and robust WiFi connections in the home. For Communications Services Providers (CSPs), WiFi 6E may offer the opportunity to improve subscribers' Quality of Experience (QoE) and deliver the most sophisticated smart home services.

“Bringing the benefits of an AFC system to our customers would be a natural extension of Plume’s existing cloud- and AI-driven services and an important part of our commitment to delivering cutting-edge products that deliver optimal in-home experiences,” noted Sandeep Rai, VP of Software at Plume. “Plume’s ultimate vision is to enable the use of an AFC system in all households that are managed in the Plume Cloud. Our goal is to enable our CSP customers to take greater advantage of the 6 GHz band and the increased WiFi capacity that it brings to deliver even better experiences to their subscribers.”

DSA lauds FCC

Separately, the Dynamic Spectrum Alliance (DSA), a global organization advocating for laws and regulations that will lead to more efficient and effective spectrum utilization, launded the FCC's decision to bring next generation Wi-Fi closer to reality for homes and businesses across the United States.

“The recent decision to enable the use of AFC database systems is a crucial milestone on the path to attend the growing demand for affordable and enhanced broadband access,” commented Martha Suarez, President of the Dynamic Spectrum Alliance. “Enabling the operation of the thirteen proposed entities will provide better, adaptable Wi-Fi to those that require this the most, and we’d like to compliment the FCC for recognizing this as a vital requirement.”

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About the Author

Matt Vincent | Senior Editor

Matt Vincent is senior editor of Broadband Technology Report. A B2B technology journalist, editor and content producer with over 17 years of experience, he specializes in the full range of media content production and management, as well as SEO and social media engagement best practices.

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