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Ofcom Speed Up UK Wireless WiFi Networks with More 5GHz Spectrum

Friday, May 13th, 2016 (11:09 am) - Score 2,166
wifi wireless signal

The United Kingdom’s telecoms regulator, Ofcom, has today proposed to add an extra sub-band to the 5GHz radio spectrum band used by many internal home WiFi wireless networks, which would increase the number of 80MHz channels available from 4 to 6 and deliver faster speeds.

At present most home WiFi Wireless Local Area Network (WLAN/RLAN) devices, such as a broadband router or Smartphone, make use of both the 2.4GHz and or 5GHz (Gigahertz) bands. The lower frequency 2.4GHz spectrum is the one most commonly used and also penetrates further through walls (better coverage), while 5GHz can delivery faster speeds but suffers from weaker coverage.

Each band is then split up into separate “Channels“. For example, there are 14 channels sharing around 100MHz of radio spectrum designated in the 2.4GHz range and each is about 20MHz wide (these are spaced just a few MHz apart to limit interference).

The 5GHz band also works in much the same way, although how many channels there are and what amount of spectrum bandwidth they use (10MHz to 160MHz) varies from country to country and via different WiFi standards. Ofcom’s proposal would open up a further 125MHz of 5GHz spectrum at 5725-5850MHz, which is something that the USA already does.

Philip Marnick, Group Director of Spectrum at Ofcom, said:

“People are placing greater demands on their broadband, so we need to ensure they aren’t let down by their wireless connection. We also want to close the gap between advertised speeds and the wireless performance that people and businesses actually receive. So we’re exploring ways to open up more airwaves for Wi-Fi.”

The reason that the regulator is focusing upon this specific slice of 5725-5850MHz is because early results from on-going technical studies suggest that sharing with other users is feasible (e.g. Satellites of the FSS use spectrum at 5GHz for data uplink in the Earth-to-space direction from ground stations across the globe.) and the band could also be opened up through UK-policy, without the need to await wider international developments.

Naturally Ofcom’s consultation, which is open for responses until 22nd July 2016, will examine what stakeholders think and help to establish the correct technical parameters to ensure the appropriate protection of other users in the sub-band. Assuming all goes well then we could expect to see even faster 5GHz WiFi networks in the next 2-3 years, which will be helpful for supporting the latest Gigabit class broadband connections.

Leave a Comment
4 Responses
  1. Avatar Marcus Clifford

    The 5725-5850 MHz is already available for use in outside deployments as “Band C”. This is a lightly licenced frequency (You need a licenece but you just apply for it). The power is limited to 4W / 36dBm EIRP which is higher than the lower frequency Band B so more useful for Point-To-Point deployments.

    I would question if it is logical to clash with this already allocated frequency.

    • Yes, agreed.

      I had a quick read through the document and it claims at one point that internal wifi units do not tend to interfere with external FWA use.

      On that basis, they will not tend to interfere either with internal wifi units in other properties – thus why on earth do they need so much spectrum? 🙂

    • Good point, I missed the internal / external aspect. Hopefully the final results from Ofcom’s technical study will clarify this (they’re still on-going).

  2. Avatar Bob

    Oh god god if they allow band c for residential/public use then wISP’s will be no more…

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