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Ofcom UK to Make 6GHz Band Available for Faster Home Wi-Fi

Friday, January 17th, 2020 (11:26 am) - Score 3,576

The UK telecoms regulator has today proposed to free up 500MHz of spectrum in the 6GHz frequency band on a licence-exempt basis so that it can be used by the latest WiFi networks (e.g. Wi-Fi 6 / 6E – 802.11ax), which would make such networks faster, more reliable and a bit more secure.

At present the latest 802.11ax standard promises theoretical peak data speeds of 10Gbps (Gigabits per second) via the combined 2.4GHz and 5GHz radio spectrum bands, as well as better management of spectrum in congested environments, faster latency, improved power efficiency and various other changes (see our summary). But the wider industry is now moving to add the 6GHz band via future updates (here).

NOTE: The 802.11ax standard was designed with the possibility of harnessing 6GHz in mind (some firmware updates may be needed).

The 6GHz band, being of a higher frequency than the others, would of course have a lower level of coverage than the 5GHz one but the extra spectrum allows more space for data (i.e. significantly faster speeds). On the flip side this lower coverage would also make it more secure for homes and reduce the negative impact from congestion via competing local WiFi signals.

One issue is that the 6GHz band is already being used by various different services, including fixed wireless links, and in theory some of those might have to be moved out of the band if future sharing is unlikely to be possible.

The 6GHz WiFi Proposal

• Make the lower 6GHz band (5925-6425 MHz) available for Wi-Fi.
The release of this spectrum would, as well as boosting indoor use, also enable very low power (VLP) outdoor use. This would improve performance by reducing congestion in existing bands caused by large numbers of devices and enable the development of new, higher bandwidth applications.

• Remove the Dynamic Frequency Selection (DFS) requirements from Wi-Fi channels in the 5.8 GHz band (5725-5850 MHz).
DFS requires a Wi-Fi router to scan for radars and to switch channel if transmissions are detected. DFS can therefore represent a constraint for equipment manufacturers and cause connection delays for Wi-Fi users. The UK is currently the only country to have imposed these requirements on the 5.8 GHz band.

Amending the requirements on this band could increase its use for indoor Wi-Fi and reduce congestion in other Wi-Fi bands.

Ofcom said they will be consulting on this until 20th March 2020 and then intend to reach their final position later in 2020. Otherwise faster WiFi is something that more or less everyone will probably welcome, particularly as broadband ISP technologies improve.

We should point out that early research has already begun for the future Wi-Fi 7 (802.11be) standard, which aims to increase the maximum throughput to 30Gbps, further reduce latency and improve reliability. But this is not expected to be available for several years.

Leave a Comment
7 Responses
  1. Avatar Iain

    This is good: WiFi 6 devices in 6GHz won’t be slowed down by older versions of WiFi.

    It is funny, though, that WiFi 6e is imminent, yet barely any phones have WiFi 6. Lots of new Samsung phones do, but barely any others from other manufacturers. Hopefully that will change.

  2. Avatar Jon

    I hope that we might see improved speeds of service in those areas that are still slow.
    I receive 3.2 meg from a BT FTTC service that has a theoretical speed of 60 meg if I was next to the exchange/cabinet. Oh the cabinet is just outside the exchange and I have about 1.7km of copper. Mis-selling comes to mind.

    • Avatar Darren

      I would find it very surprising if you were on a 3.2 Mbps connection. They do not install services to people on that level of connection. Besides, this article has nothing to with FTTC.

    • Avatar 125us

      This will do nothing to improve your broadband speed. This development deals with the Wi-fi signal from your home router to your device, the speed from your provider’s network to the router will remain the same.

    • Avatar SuperFast Dream

      @Darren, @Jon is quite correct. BT will install FTTC on 3.2Mbps, in fact they will go even lower than this with an FTTC connection these days. Long gone are the days when the minimum they would accept for an FTTC connection was 15Mbps.

      @Jon, @Darren & @125us are both correct. This standard is for Wi-Fi on consumer and business hardware such as Routers, Access Points, Laptops, Tablets, Phones, IoT devices etc, and not commercial rollout of Wireless Broadband products such as Mobile Broadband, WISP etc.

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