Personal and business WiFi users could see increased speeds and reliability in the near future as a result of a recent move made by UK telecoms regulator Ofcom to open up 500MHz of spectrum above the typical 5GHz WiFi band.”
WiFi: The Current Landscape
Demand for faster and more stable WiFi connections has been driven by both businesses and home consumers, as well as the arrival of newest popular technologies such as 4K video streaming, virtual and augmented realities and new videxo game streaming platforms like Google’s Stadia.
In addition to the increased demand for performance at the bleeding edge, we have an undeniable problem with slow speeds and congestion for the average user. The result is a need for change both in terms of what is possible and in terms of the average user experience.
In response, Ofcom have opened up 500MHz of spectrum in the lower 6GHz band; specifically 5925MHz-6425MHz. This will increase the number of available channels, thereby reducing congestion per channel and improving performance.
Ofcom will also update the technical requirements for WiFi routers surrounding the inclusion of Dynamic Frequency Selection (DFS) on channels used by WiFi in the 5.8GHz band.
DFS requirements essentially mandate that WiFi routers must scan for radar transmissions on the channel currently being used and, if detected, to switch the channel so as not to interfere with the radar transmission.
Since risk of interference from indoor WiFi is extremely low and this function represents a constraint on router performance, Ofcom have opted to alter these requirements.
The True Advantage
In the same way that the 5GHz WiFi band offers faster speeds with reduced coverage versus the 2.4GHz WiFi band, the new 6GHz frequencies will provide still faster speeds than 5GHz, albeit at a range that is further reduced. For those in close proximity to their WiFi router, theoretical speeds of 10Gbps are said to be possible.
WiFi 6, the newest standard from the WiFi Alliance based on the 802.11ax protocol, still uses 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands to supply ultra-low latency Gigabit WiFi speeds. However, it is the advantage of reduced congestion, already a problem in these bands, that the utilisation of the 6GHz band will solve.
In fact, more than reduced congestion, the eventual opening up of the entire 6GHz band will comprise around 1,200MHz of spectrum in total (Ofcom’s initial offering opens up 500MHz of this 1,200MHz total). Given that the 2.4GHz band provides just 100MHz of spectrum and the 5GHz band another 665MHz, it becomes apparent that this move will almost triple the amount of available bandwidth open for use by wireless technologies in the future. Such a change is significant and this latest move by Ofcom is an exciting first step.
WiFI 6 standards, when combined with the underutilised 6GHz frequency band, make up WiFI 6E. That the combination of the 6 standard with the 6GHz band is significant enough to deserve a new moniker is another clue as to the significance of the move by Ofcom.
Just how soon we can expect this technology to make it out onto the shelves is anyone’s guess, but Ofcom’s official announcement of the change has set the wheels in motion.
Ofcom’s Official Statement
According to Ofcom’s statement released on 24/07/20, their planned changes are to:
- Make the lower 6GHz band available for WiFi (5925MHz-6425MHz).
- This will make more channels available and reduce congestion per channel.
- This will also enable very low power (VLP) outdoor use.
- Remove the Dynamic Frequency Selection (DFS) requirements from channels used by WiFi in the 5GHz band.
- This will remove unnecessary performance constraints on contemporary WiFi routers, improving user experience for the average consumer.