Ofcom wants to free up more 5 GHz spectrum for UK wifi

UK telecoms regulator Ofcom has announced plans to increase the bandwidth available to wifi in the 5 GHz band in a bid to reduce 2.4 GHz congestion.

As is the way with regulators the proposal is positioned as a public consultation, with a 22 July 2016 closing date for responses. The stated aim of the proposal is to “open up more airwaves for wifi channels so that larger amounts of data can be carried at faster download speeds.”

The big problem identified by Ofcom is that the main wifi channel – the 2.4 GHz band – is becoming increasingly congested. The 5 GHz band, which is used in parallel with 2.4 GHz from the 802.11n standard onwards, is not only less congested but has more spectrum available. Ofcom wants to increase the total number of 80 MHz channels from four to six, as has already been done in the US, over the next few years.

“People are placing greater demands on their broadband, so we need to ensure they aren’t let down by their wireless connection,” said Philip Marnick, Group Director of Spectrum at Ofcom. “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 wifi. In the meantime, people can check their router is up to date, and use our wifi checker app to test if it’s working properly.”

The typically exhaustive consultation document goes into considerable further depth on the matter, identifying the 5725-5850 MHz band as the short term target as it’s viewed as a good band for sharing with other users. While not specifically identified in the announcement, technologies such as LTE-U and LAA are likely to have contributed to this move as they promise to congest wifi channels even further.

“Interference is an issue in built up areas where a multitude of routers compete for priority over the same frequencies,” commented Dan Howdle of “Those with particularly fast broadband connections are in many cases only able to tap a fraction of their top speed over wifi. Ofcom’s move to open up further bandwidth is vital if we’re to continue to depend on wireless connectivity.”

In case the argument in favour of creating more bandwidth for wifi is still too difficult to grasp, Ofcom also supplied the handy gif below.


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