The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) recently made a significant move that could have far-reaching implications for the future of wearable technology, particularly in the realm of augmented and virtual reality (AR/VR). The agency voted unanimously to open the 6 GHz band of spectrum to a new class of very low power devices, including wearable technology.
According to the FCC, this decision is expected to “spur an eco-system of cutting-edge applications, including wearable technologies and augmented and virtual reality, that will help businesses, enhance learning opportunities, advance healthcare opportunities, and bring new entertainment experiences.” This development is seen as a positive step forward by industry leaders such as Meta, the company behind smart glasses.
Meta’s vice president of North America policy, Kevin Martin, expressed his support for the FCC’s decision, stating that it is “a shining example of a government regulator working with industry early to build for the future.” Meta sees the opening of the 6 GHz band as a crucial step towards realizing its vision for smart glasses. This means that future generations of these devices could have enhanced functionality even when users are outside their homes and away from a strong Wi-Fi connection.
In addition to Meta, other technology giants such as Google and Apple have also welcomed the FCC’s vote. Google’s hardware group, Pixel, described the 6 GHz band as critical for the future of wireless connectivity and hailed the decision as a win for consumers. Apple similarly praised the move as a positive step forward in a statement.
When the FCC requested comments on the possibility of opening unlicensed use of the 6 GHz band in 2020, Apple, Broadcom, Meta, and Google were among those advocating for the agency to explore this proposal. These companies argued that allowing access to this band for very low power devices would enable critical use cases as part of the next generation 5G ecosystem. This move would make AR/VR tools, headphones, and game controllers more mobile and capable of operating wirelessly outside of the home.
In their comments, the companies highlighted the potential benefits of this decision, including supporting new critical use cases such as training for life-saving surgeries and assisting blind or low-vision individuals. They also emphasized that failure to allow for more portable and outdoor use of AR/VR glasses would severely limit their utility for activities like jogging, hiking, or next-generation fan experiences at sporting events.
The opening of the 6 GHz band to wearable technology and other very low power devices marks an exciting development in the field of AR/VR. This decision has the potential to drive innovation in the industry, unlocking new possibilities for businesses, education, healthcare, and entertainment. As technology continues to evolve, the FCC’s forward-thinking approach and collaboration with industry leaders are essential in shaping a future where wearable technology seamlessly integrates into our daily lives.