Metaverse technology has taken a leap forward as the United States Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has approved the use of the 6 GHz frequency band for low-power wearable devices, including virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) technologies. The decision comes as the metaverse gains momentum, with a flood of mixed reality devices entering the market.
The FCC rule change, announced in an Oct. 19 press release, allows “very low-power devices” to access the 6 GHz frequency band without the need for a license. This opens up 850 megahertz of spectrum in the 6 GHz band, which is known for its faster speeds, increased bandwidth and reduced latency, which is essential for immersive AR and VR experiences.
In a statement, the FCC emphasized that these new rules will support a number of cutting-edge applications, including wearable technology and augmented and virtual reality devices. This shift in frequency allocation is expected to significantly improve the consumer experience and contribute to the country’s economic growth.
The 6 GHz frequency band is of strategic importance for the operation of next-generation Wi-Fi and has been gradually made available for certain devices since the end of 2020. Major players such as Meta (formerly Facebook), Apple and Google are actively developing wearable devices for AR and VR, further highlighting the need for these rule changes. For example, Meta recently launched its Quest 3 in early October, while Apple’s Vision Pro is expected to hit the market in early 2024.
The original request to the FCC to open up this frequency spectrum to low-power devices was made jointly by Meta, Apple, and Google in early 2020. Bloomberg reported potential use cases for the 6 GHz band, such as connecting AR/VR devices to smartphones and sharing navigation data with vehicles.
The FCC has carefully structured these new rules to ensure that permitted devices operate at very low power levels while still complying with other requirements that allow them to be used nationwide. This approach protects licensed services that also use the same frequency band. In addition, the FCC is proposing to expand access of low-power devices to the remaining 6 GHz band and potentially allow higher power levels in geo-fenced areas to avoid interference with licensed operations in the same frequency band.
The 6 GHz band provides a wide range of services, including management of the US electric grid, long-distance telephone services, and backhaul connections that connect the core and subnets, underscoring the importance of FCC oversight.