SINGAPORE – A new Wi-Fi standard is being rolled out in Singapore to allow more devices to be connected on a home or office network without slowdowns in surfing. The new standard also promises faster response from connected autonomous robots for everything from collision avoidance to faster trash cleanups.

Sector regulator Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) said on Friday that it will allocate new airwaves in the 6GHz band to support the deployment of the latest Wi-Fi 6E standard by the third quarter of 2023.

The decision to allocate the new radio frequency spectrum comes amid an increase in contention for the current limited number of Wi-Fi channels, especially in dense indoor settings.

As the number of user devices increases and apps become more sophisticated, IMDA said this may result in slower user experience and the allocation of more spectrum can alleviate that, as well as facilitate the deployment of more bandwidth-intensive applications such as augmented and virtual reality in future.

The lower segment of the 6GHz band (5,925MHz to 6,425MHz) will be set aside for Wi-Fi use. The spectrum has been globally identified as suitable for Wi-Fi use, and was previously unlicensed in Singapore. It provides an additional 500MHz of spectrum.

The allocation of this additional spectrum supports the usage of wider Wi-Fi channels such as the 160MHz channels, which are two to eight times wider than the current 20MHz to 80MHz channels in the 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands used today, said IMDA.

Wider channels can enable the transfer of data at faster speeds.

Current Wi-Fi speeds can go up to a maximum of 4.8Gbps, but with the wider 160MHz channels, maximum speeds can be doubled to 9.6Gbps.

The wider channels can also support lower latency use cases such as generative artificial intelligence with higher data transfers and virtual reality with more immersive online experiences, said IMDA.

Lower latency connections experience very small delay times.

The roll-out of Wi-Fi 6E is part of efforts to develop Singapore's digital connectivity infrastructure.

An advisory panel co-chaired by Senior Minister of State for Communications and Information Janil Puthucheary is working on a blueprint to set out plans for digital infrastructure by June.

Dr Janil had a closed-door meeting on Friday with members of the panel at Changi General Hospital, where they also observed a demonstration of how the hospital integrates its use of multiple autonomous robots through the use of a middleware framework, a software layer that enables different robot fleets to talk to one another.

At a media doorstop on the sidelines of the event, Dr Janil said the impending roll-out of Wi-Fi 6E is important because robotics and other parts of Singapore's digital industry rely on that high-speed transmission of data.

He also pointed out that there was a need to ensure a seamless experience as users transition between the different connectivity options in Singapore.

"We need all our different modalities of data transmission, whether it's fibre (broadband), whether it's through the telcos' 4G and 5G (mobile networks), and whether it's Wi-Fi within the buildings, you want all of them to be at the same speed or similar speed. Otherwise, you will operate at the speed of the lowest choke point, the lowest modality," said Dr Janil.

5G can offer potential peak speeds of up to 20Gbps, while the next-generation technology upgrade of nationwide broadband network can potentially offer up to 10Gbps speeds.

"The roll-out of the Wi-Fi 6E standards and the enhancement of the Wi-Fi speeds is part of that process of making sure all the ways we transmit data are getting faster and (with) lower latency," added Dr Janil.

Ms Maya Hari, a member of the digital infrastructure advisory panel and chief executive of climate-tech company Terrascope, said the roll-out of Wi-Fi 6E will be a game changer for enterprises like hers.

"Terrascope is very focused on using machine learning and artificial intelligence to help large enterprises decarbonise. Whether it's for our own technology for powering larger algorithms or to better compute, or being able to go deeper into supply chains to collect and gather data, this is the big need of the hour," said Ms Hari.