Ofcom plans to boost Wi-Fi speeds with more 5 GHz spectrum

Ofcom set out plans to increase Wi-Fi speeds across the UK by releasing more spectrum in the 5 GHz band.

The UK regulator opened a consultation to explore the issue, with the deadline for feedback set for Jul. 22.

Ofcom explained that the 2.4 GHz band, which is used by many routers in the UK, is becoming increasingly congested, often resulting in an impairment to home broadband performance. Most Wi-Fi routers now also use the 5 GHz band, which the regulator said has more spectrum and is less congested.

The regulator therefore proposes opening up an additional 'sub-band' within the 5 GHz frequency range for Wi-Fi. It added that it wants to ensure this will be achieved while also protecting other users of this band, such as satellite services.

The extra sub-band would increase the number of 80 MHz channels available for Wi-Fi from four to six. Ofcom said these extra channels -- which are already being used in the U.S. -- could be opened up in a few years once technical studies have been completed.

Ofcom said users could improve speeds in the meantime by ensuring their routers already support the less congested 5 GHz band.

Philip Marnick, group director of spectrum at Ofcom, said: "People are placing greater demands on their broadband, so we need to ensure they aren't let down by their wireless connection."

As is the case in many markets in the world, millions of households in the UK rely on Wi-Fi networks to connect PCs, mobile devices and TVs within the home. Indeed, Ofcom noted that there were 23.7 million fixed residential and small business broadband lines at the end of 2014.

However, the Wi-Fi set-up in homes is often far from perfect, and can cause a slow down in broadband speeds. The Ofcom Wi-Fi Checker, which runs on smartphones and tablets, allows consumers and businesses to check the quality of their wireless internet signal at home or at work and suggests where improvements could be made.

For more:
- see this Ofcom release

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