US regulator approves faster Wi-Fi for metaverse devices

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has announced a new rule that allows low-power devices, such as virtual and augmented reality wearables, to access the 6 GHz frequency band without a license. This will enable faster and more reliable connectivity for the metaverse, the emerging digital world that blends physical and virtual realities.

What is the 6 GHz band and why is it important?

The 6 GHz band is a range of radio frequencies that spans from 5.925 GHz to 7.125 GHz. It offers a total of 850 megahertz of spectrum, which is more than the combined capacity of all the other Wi-Fi bands currently available. The 6 GHz band also supports faster speeds, more bandwidth, and lower latency, which are essential for high-performance applications such as gaming, streaming, and immersive experiences.

US regulator approves faster Wi-Fi for metaverse devices
US regulator approves faster Wi-Fi for metaverse devices

The FCC first opened up the 6 GHz band for unlicensed use in April 2020, allowing standard-power devices such as routers and access points to operate on the band under certain conditions. However, very low-power devices, such as smartphones and wearables, were not allowed to use the band without a license, due to concerns about potential interference with licensed services that also operate on the same band.

How will the new rule benefit the metaverse?

The new rule, adopted by the FCC on Oct. 19, 2023, will allow very low-power devices to use the 6 GHz band without a license, as long as they meet certain technical requirements that ensure they do not cause harmful interference to licensed services. The FCC said that these devices will be able to operate across the country and will spur an ecosystem of cutting-edge applications, including wearable technologies and augmented and virtual reality.

The metaverse is an emerging concept that refers to a shared digital space that connects physical and virtual worlds. It is envisioned as a platform for social interaction, entertainment, education, commerce, and more. The metaverse relies on advanced technologies such as artificial intelligence, blockchain, cloud computing, and 5G. However, one of the key challenges for the metaverse is to provide seamless and immersive connectivity for users across different devices and environments.

The new rule will enable metaverse devices to tap into the 6 GHz band, which will provide them with faster and more reliable Wi-Fi connections. This will improve the quality and performance of metaverse applications and services, such as streaming high-resolution video and audio, rendering realistic graphics and animations, and enabling real-time interaction and collaboration. The new rule will also foster innovation and competition in the metaverse market, as more device manufacturers and service providers will be able to leverage the 6 GHz band for their products and offerings.

Who are the main players in the metaverse?

The metaverse is a nascent but rapidly growing field that attracts interest from various sectors and industries. Some of the major players in the metaverse include:

  • Meta: Formerly known as Facebook, Meta is one of the leading companies in the metaverse space. It owns popular social VR platforms such as Oculus and Horizon, as well as AR glasses developed in partnership with Ray-Ban. Meta also recently launched its Quest 3 headset, which features improved performance and resolution. Meta’s vision is to create a social metaverse that connects billions of people around the world.
  • Apple: Apple is widely rumored to be working on its own AR/VR devices, which are expected to launch in early 2024. Apple’s devices are reportedly called Vision Pro and will feature high-end cameras, sensors, displays, and processors. Apple’s devices will also integrate with its existing ecosystem of products and services, such as iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, AirPods, Apple TV, Apple Music, Apple Arcade, and iCloud.
  • Google: Google is another tech giant that has invested in the metaverse space. Google owns YouTube VR, which is one of the largest platforms for VR content creation and consumption. Google also offers ARCore, a software development kit that enables developers to create AR applications for Android devices. Google is also said to be developing its own AR glasses, which will compete with Meta’s and Apple’s products.
  • Microsoft: Microsoft is another key player in the metaverse space. Microsoft owns Minecraft, one of the most popular sandbox games that allows users to create and explore virtual worlds. Microsoft also offers HoloLens, a mixed reality headset that blends digital content with physical surroundings. Microsoft’s HoloLens is mainly used for enterprise applications such as training, education, manufacturing, and healthcare.
  • Other players: Besides these four tech giants, there are many other players in the metaverse space that offer various products and services related to VR/AR/MR/XR technologies. Some examples include:
    • Sony: Sony offers PlayStation VR (PSVR), a VR headset that works with its PlayStation console and games. Sony also owns several VR game studios, such as Insomniac Games and Sucker Punch Productions.
    • Valve: Valve is a video game developer and distributor that owns Steam, the largest online platform for PC gaming. Valve also offers SteamVR, a software that enables users to play VR games on various headsets, such as HTC Vive, Oculus Rift, and Valve Index.
    • HTC: HTC is a smartphone manufacturer that also produces VR headsets, such as HTC Vive and HTC Vive Pro. HTC also offers Viveport, a subscription service that provides access to hundreds of VR games and apps.
    • Samsung: Samsung is a smartphone manufacturer that also produces VR headsets, such as Samsung Gear VR and Samsung Odyssey. Samsung also offers Samsung XR, a platform that provides VR/AR content and services.
    • Nvidia: Nvidia is a graphics card manufacturer that also produces VR headsets, such as Nvidia Shield and Nvidia Jetson. Nvidia also offers Nvidia VRWorks, a software that optimizes VR performance and quality for its graphics cards.

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