Amid a surge in mixed reality devices flooding the market, the United States Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has taken a significant step by allowing low-power wearable technology, including virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) devices crucial to the metaverse, to access the 6 gigahertz (GHz) frequency band.
This rule change, announced in an October 19 press release, opens up the 6 GHz frequency band to “very low power devices” without requiring a license, effectively providing access to 850 megahertz of spectrum. This move capitalizes on the band’s potential for faster speeds, increased bandwidth, and reduced latency, which is critical for immersive AR and VR experiences.
The FCC stated that these rules would encourage the development of cutting-edge applications, particularly in the realm of wearable technologies and augmented and virtual reality. The 6 GHz band, according to the FCC, is integral for next-generation Wi-Fi operations and was initially made available for some devices in late 2020.
Tech giants Meta, Apple, and Google have been actively developing AR and VR wearables. Meta recently launched its Quest 3 in early October, while Apple’s Vision Pro is expected to hit the market in early 2024. Furthermore, Meta introduced a second version of its AR glasses in partnership with Ray-Ban in September. Reports suggest that Apple and Google are also exploring AR-enabled glasses.
These industry leaders initially petitioned the FCC in early 2020 to open up the frequency spectrum for low-power devices like their wearables. Potential applications for the 6 GHz band include connecting AR/VR devices to smartphones and sharing navigation data with vehicles.
The FCC’s statement underlines the importance of crafting rules that balance the use of very low power devices while safeguarding licensed services operating in the same band, which includes services managing the U.S. electric grids, long-distance phone services, and backhaul connections.
Additionally, the regulator proposed expanding the scope of low-power devices to access the remaining 6 GHz band and allowing the use of higher power levels within geofenced areas to prevent interference with licensed operations in the same frequency band. These developments mark a significant stride in the evolution of AR and VR technologies, enabling their seamless integration into the daily lives of consumers while upholding the integrity of critical services.