The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in the United States announced that it decided to open the 6 GHz band to certain categories of low-power devices at the request of tech companies including Google, Apple, and Meta.

The spectrum allows for significantly faster speeds
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Photo: Bogdan Popa/autoevolution

The firms were part of a group that petitioned the FCC to access the spectrum in 2020.

The FCC explains in the announcement that wireless devices connecting to 6 GHz will support “very high connection speeds”, emphasizing that they will operate only at short distances.

Access to the 6 GHz spectrum will support several use cases, but as the tech giants explained in their original request, two product categories will benefit the most from this decision. Augmented reality and virtual reality devices, such as Apple’s Vision Pro, will get access to upgraded speeds, allowing for seamless connection with the smartphone.

The 6 GHz band support will allow the two devices to exchange data at higher speeds, and considering the latest-generation AR and VR devices use a gigantic amount of data, these fast connections are mandatory.

The second is the in-car experience, where tech giants want the connection between smartphones and infotainment systems to be faster and more reliable. Apple and Google touted the need for 6 GHz access in vehicles, explaining that exchanging data between the smartphone and the infotainment system for things like navigation and streaming requires upgraded speeds.

The tech giants also emphasized that 6 GHz in a vehicle aligns with the FCC’s requirements regarding geofencing. The cabin should reduce the likelihood of interference, as the FCC emphasized that all technologies accessing the spectrum “are subject to a geofencing system that provides interference protection to licensed incumbent operations in the band.”

Google and Apple are investing billions in their automotive expansions. Apple wants to become a carmaker with an Apple Car, while Google sticks with software and services.

The Apple Car will be a living room on wheels, offering deep smartphone integration and a cabin centered around services and software. The vehicle is expected to launch in 2025 or 2026, with an upgraded model heavily focused on autonomous driving due later this decade.

Google uses products like Android Auto and Android Automotive to conquer the car world. Android Automotive is already making its way to more vehicles, as companies like Honda, Volvo, and General Motors have adopted the operating system to power their next-generation cars. Android Automotive runs at the hardware level in a car, powering the infotainment capabilities in the cabin.

Android Auto uses a connection with the smartphone to mirror content on the infotainment screen, in which case the speed of the connection, especially in wireless mode, is critical for the experience behind the wheel.

Smartphones will play the center role in the next-generation infotainment, and access to 6 GHz allows tech giant to focus on technology that would increase the integration, including with AR and VR support.

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