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Plans outlined to boost Wi-Fi connectivity in the UK

Out-Law News | 16 May 2016 | 4:28 pm | 1 min. read

More radio spectrum will be made available to help improve Wi-Fi connectivity in the UK, Ofcom has announced.

The telecommunications regulator has outlined plans (52-page / 1.17MB PDF) to increase the amount of spectrum in the 5GHz frequency band that is available for "Wi-Fi and other related wireless technologies".

Ofcom said Wi-Fi is already "one of the UK’s most important vehicles for communications, commerce and entertainment" but that as demand grows there will be additional pressure put on the spectrum allocated for providing Wi-Fi services. This means that capacity has to be increased, it said.

"We expect demand for Wi-Fi (and other similar technologies) to continue growing as the number of connected wireless devices increases, and those devices make use of ever more high data applications," Ofcom said. "This demand is likely to place increased pressure on the spectrum over which Wi-Fi is carried. In light of this growing demand, we propose to open up a further 125 MHz of 5 GHz spectrum at 5725-5850 MHz - subject to first establishing the correct technical parameters to ensure the appropriate protection of other users of this sub-band. The details of these technical conditions will be the subject of a further consultation."

"When combined with the existing 5 GHz Wi-Fi spectrum, our proposal will enable the creation of two additional 80 MHz channels to help address consumers’ demand for high data rate applications. It will also help avoid congestion," it said.

Ofcom said it wanted to use its consultation exercise to gather industry's views on what other steps it should prioritise to make additional spectrum available for Wi-Fi services.

"We want to know the views of stakeholders about the future drivers of demand for Wi-Fi and related technologies; which use cases will be most important for consumers; and how demand is likely to change in over time," the regulator said. "We need to understand how these demands might best be met, depending on the particular type of application and/or location (e.g. indoor versus outdoor). We also need to understand the extent to which technology changes might help to ease demand pressures."

Ofcom's consultation is open to feedback until 22 July.