Residents in the UK could soon enjoy faster WiFi thanks to the changes industry watchdog Ofcom decided on last month. Ofcom’s future-proofing plans for WiFi connectivity will help meet the increasing demand for high-speed internet.
This timely news is set to benefit the rising number of work-from-home employees – who need reliable connections to ensure that work is delivered promptly, regardless of location.
The industry regulator announced that it would be opening up 500MHz more spectrum, from the lower 6 GHz band allocated for wireless connectivity services. Networks will be able to access the available airwaves without a licence, making it easier for providers to deliver faster internet. Ofcom made this decision after consulting with stakeholders earlier this year.
Ofcom announced that technical requirements for WiFi routers would be updated to reduce the congestion of wireless networks. This development will provide a much better online experience for users, and aid the introduction and use of newer technologies like augmented reality, virtual reality, and bring ultra-high-definition streaming to the masses.
Home broadband speeds have held up well despite the Covid-19 lockdown, which consequently increased the number of remote workers and internet usage at home. The regulator’s latest decision will ensure that the rising demand for wireless services will be adequately met in the future.
The typical household uses as much as 315GB of broadband data monthly, which is roughly equal to four hours of HD video per day.
As working from home looks set to continue, home networks have become a vital tool – allowing companies to continue doing business despite the pandemic. Research suggests that users are becoming increasingly unsure as to the existing network’s ability to support higher upload traffic, especially since HD video conferencing is now a part of the new normal.
ABI Research’s April 2020 report revealed that the current WiFi infrastructure might fall short in meeting requirements for remote working. Many users are likely still using outdated equipment with legacy standards like 802.11n. The report highlighted that access to the better-designed WiFi 6 would be an ideal choice for normally crowded networks.
The January 2020 consultation prompted Ofcom to open up the lower 6GHz band airwaves, specifically the 5925-6425MHz range. These airwaves will be available for WiFi and other Radio Local Area Network (or RLAN) technologies. Making this frequency range available will increase the capacity and number of channels available, and free up existing bands that are currently handling a large number of devices.
Ofcom will also be removing Dynamic Frequency Selection (DFS) requirements, which typically cause connection delays due to their stricter equipment standards – such as throughput and quality of service (QoS). This decision was made because indoor wireless services are less likely to be exposed to interference risks.
The 6GHz frequency for WiFi is higher than existing bands like the 5GHz and 2.4GHz, which means that it will have a shorter range. However, it doesn’t pose a significant problem with the current situation since WiFi use is mostly confined to households. This change could be seen as a security bonus, as it prevents outsiders from detecting the connection at a distance.
The higher frequency would also ensure less overlap, reducing network congestion between neighbouring homes that use similar frequencies, since their individual signals will not reach each other. The increased spectrum availability is expected to speed up data transfer at home as well.
Cloud-driven company Extreme Networks stated that the regulator’s decision would create opportunities for innovation, for instance in the areas of video technologies improvement and application development.
Perry Correll, Extreme Networks Director of Product Marketing, said that Ofgem’s decision would usher networks into the new normal. He said that the additional 500MHz of bandwidth would provide 24 channels of 20MHz, and can deliver more channels at different frequencies, too. He praised the ‘cleaner’ spectrum, saying that the 6GHz band will transform the future of technologies and companies.