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Ofcom Speeds Up UK Wi-Fi Networks by Adding 5.8GHz Spectrum Band

Thursday, July 13th, 2017 (11:23 am) by Mark Jackson (Score 837)
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The United Kingdom’s telecoms regulator, Ofcom, has today made an additional 125MHz of radio spectrum available to WiFi networks (Wireless Local Area Networks – WLAN) by introducing support for the 5.8GHz (5725 – 5850MHz) radio spectrum sub-band to deliver faster speeds.

Most WiFi networks already make use of the 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands, although some counties (e.g. the USA) are also able to harness a bit more spectrum via the 5.8GHz band. Ofcom wanted to do the same by increasing the number of 80MHz channels available from 4 to 6, which is partly because 5.8GHz is now considered to have “the potential to become harmonised worldwide” for WiFi.

Ofcom has been consulting on the changes for the past 13-14 months (here and here) and they’ve today reported that “the majority of respondents from the Wi-Fi sector supported and welcomed our proposals to open up the 5.8 GHz band.”

The changes include a power limitation to 200mW per channel (cautious but necessary to limit interference) and a ban on fixed outdoor use (i.e. 5.8GHz will benefit indoor networks, such as your home WiFi). Some Fixed Wireless Broadband (BFWA) ISPs also use the same band, although Ofcom believes that the limits should make interference between WiFi and BFWA networks “unlikely“.

Ofcom’s Decision

We have carefully reviewed and considered the comments from all respondents. For the reasons set out above, we did not consider it necessary to revisit our decision to make the 5.8 GHz band available for Wi-Fi or to make changes to the proposed technical parameters at this time.

As noted in our March Statement, our aim was to authorise Wi-Fi use of the 5.8 GHz band on the basis of technical conditions which were the least restrictive, but also appropriately cautious in relation to interference to other services, based on studies to date. For the reasons set out in this section, we continue to consider that the proposed technical parameters strike an appropriate balance of maximising benefits to consumers of Wi-Fi services while avoiding negative impacts on other users.

Having carefully considered the views of respondents to the published Notice, we also consider that, in accordance with section 8(3B) of the WTA, the Regulations as drafted are objectively justifiable, not unduly discriminatory, proportionate and transparent.

We have therefore decided to proceed to make the Regulations as drafted in the Notice, with no amendments to the proposed technical conditions. We present the scope of the regulations in the following section.

It’s worth pointing out that most of the respondents to Ofcom’s final consultation also encouraged the regulator to actively work towards the medium and long-term goals of enabling Wi-Fi access to the 5850-5925MHz band and, additionally, 5925-6425MHz. We may learn more about this in the future.

Otherwise the new regulations will officially come into force by 7th August 2017, although in many cases consumers will need to wait for new hardware to be produced before they can take advantage. However it’s possible that some kit may be able to benefit with a simple firmware update, depending upon the chipset.

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6 Responses
  1. bob

    So that’s Fixed Wireless Access (FWA) broadband f**ked up.

  2. Darren

    Not great, possibly part of the “bt protect” project, stuff up FWA providers by creating mass interference

    • I seriously doubt that and see no reason to single out BT on this one, not least because most UK WiFi networks can’t make use of the 5.8GHz band yet and 200mW per channel is very cautious. The change is widely supported.

    • MikeW

      There are currently 8 channels in Band A of 5GHz that runs at 200mW power and are restricted to indoor use, so these new channels should match those quite readily.

      The 11 channels in Band B, sitting between old and new, get to use 1W, 7dB more.

      I guess the impact on FWA really depends on how much of that 200mW leaks outside the building.

      Are you sure that FWA’s home WiFi routers get to use Band C *inside* the home too? I would have thought that would be unlicenced use, even if the FWA operator has a licence for the Pt-to-MultiPt leg.

  3. Darren

    Yes, perhaps a bit out of order re BT however, there are already home Wifi routers using band C , if they have a Band C internet feed to their property, its tends to affect their own wifi more so than the backhaul itself. It does however increase the SNR even at 200mW.

  4. G. Lee

    I used to use this a year or so ago and it was great, however that was with broadcast power of upto 2W (2000mw)….

    So this is welcome news for congestion but does still leave the same limitation of broadcast range and throughput the same if not worse than channels 36-48.

    Also how long will it take ISP’s/Manufacturers to makes the config changes to CPE.

    ISP’s have still not been able to enable the use of 5.4Ghz channels properly yet, Virign Media did a good job with the Super Hub 2&2AC but the Hub 3 won’t use them unless manually set and even then it changes it self back and forth and also fails to boot up from a restart or loss of power.

    I had a Sky Q hub for a while and it was stuck with use of channel 36 only….

    Also channels 100+ can broadcast with power upto 1W (1000mw)…. so a decision by Ofcom which has taken too long has meant a limitation requirement because during the time it could of been active WISP’s have moved in and taken the band…

    Well done Ofcom, you’ve made it to the 20th centrury… just another to go.

    **Sorry for rant, but this has been something I’ve been battling for years when living in areas with high wireless utilisation issues… feel this is just a wee improvement that will be rendered uselss after a few years in action***

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