Wi-Fi Supports National Security

Wi-Fi Supports National Security

As the U.S. continues to address how to allocate spectrum among competing uses, policymakers must devise a coordinated and comprehensive approach to domestic spectrum policy to ensure U.S. national security and to allow the U.S. to lead on the global stage. That’s why the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation is holding a hearing this Thursday to discuss this critical issue.

Wi-Fi enables the U.S. to be a leader in technology and innovation, as well as fosters a stronger economy and counters Chinese companies’ push for their own exclusive licensed technologies. Furthermore, the technology already coexists with critical communications and with Department of Defense (DoD) use, demonstrating its track record as a trusted and safe partner.

Countering Chinese influence

The U.S. Wi-Fi industry has been at the forefront, fighting against China’s global spectrum priorities. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has prioritized influencing spectrum allocation decisions around the world, which serves to maximize the influence of state-backed corporations like Huawei and ZTE and undercut U.S. leadership in the space.

  • In 2020, the FCC led the world when it opened the 6 GHz band for unlicensed use. The move has since been followed by Canada, Brazil, and others.
  • However, to counter U.S. leadership, the CCP led the fight against countries looking to follow America’s example, as China sought to make 6 GHz a band for exclusive, licensed mobile use worldwide.
    • At the World Radio Conference in 2023, China aggressively worked to advance its global plan to call for only exclusive, licensed mobile networks in the upper half of the 6 GHz band, which would advantage CCP-sponsored companies and give them a leg up on the future of global connectivity.
    • The U.S. delegation pushed back and largely thwarted the CCP’s attempt at WRC. However, the fight for 6 GHz is far from over.
  • Looking ahead, China will push for exclusive use in the 7/8 GHz band, again to benefit its own CCP-backed companies.
    • This is despite the band being in a prime position for unlicensed use due to its adjacency to the 6 GHz unlicensed band, existing equipment and standards that are capable of using this spectrum, in addition to Wi-Fi’s successful track record of coexisting with incumbents.  

Wi-Fi allows a resilient connectivity ecosystem

Wi-Fi networks are widespread and virtually ubiquitous, due to the tremendous investment providers and developers have made to keep pace with consumers’ growing demands. As a result, Wi-Fi networks provide coverage where people use it the most, at home, at work, and on the go, as well as acting as a fallback when a cell network goes down.

  • When natural disasters strike, U.S. cable operators have voluntarily opened their Wi-Fi networks to any and all users, as they did during the recent Maui wildfires and Hurricane Ida.
  • During a recent major nationwide cell outage, customers were told to use Wi-Fi for calls and communication until the cell network returned online.
    • Government agencies even directed those affected to use Wi-Fi to access emergency services, demonstrating the technology’s resilience and track record in emergency situations.
  • The vast majority of data consumed daily is delivered via Wi-Fi.
    • 57% of total U.S. internet traffic is estimated to be delivered over Wi-Fi, compared to only 6.6% over licensed wireless spectrum.

Spectrum coexistence is a win-win

A shared-use approach delivers the best of both worlds; critical defense and government use can continue without incurring a costly relocation all while opening up new commercial bands, facilitating a growing consumer market and tech innovation.

  • Since its inception, Wi-Fi has been designed to use spectrum efficiently and to coexist with other spectrum users.
    • In the 6 GHz band, power limits allow unlicensed use while protecting incumbents.
  • Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) allows shared-license use in the same band as U.S. Navy radar, demonstrating the confidence and safety of another shared-use model beyond Wi-Fi.
    • The U.S. government has successfully commercialized valuable federal spectrum resources and unleashed economic growth and innovation, without incurring huge costs to relocate DoD.

Wi-Fi technology is a bedrock of the nation’s connectivity and is key to U.S. national security and global competitiveness. Wi-Fi offers a smart, safe, alternative to the exclusive-use licensing advocated by China and its allies.