Ofcom hatches faster Wi-Fi plan

Speeded up Wi-Fi for millions of people in homes and companies in the UK are the focus of fresh plans from Ofcom.

Under the proposals, more airwaves for Wi-Fi channels would be opened up, so that larger amounts of data can be carried at faster download speeds.

This should help improve the quality of service, particularly for the users of smart-phone, laptop or tablet applications that demand more internet capacity to run smoothly, like HD video.

But the telecoms regulator also says it will act to make the connections themselves faster to reflect the fact that users want their Wi-Fi to provide several services at once.

So because broadband speeds to the home have increased, so too have users’ expectations that they can download, stream, run games, video call or work remotely all at the same time.

Currently, many Wi-Fi routers in the UK use a part of the spectrum in the 2.4 GHz band, which is becoming increasingly congested and can impair broadband performance.

Many people now have newer broadband routers, which use not only the 2.4 GHz band, but also the 5 GHz band - which has much more spectrum and is less congested.

To make connections faster, Ofcom wants to open up an additional ‘sub-band’ within the 5 GHz frequency range for Wi-Fi - while ensuring protection for other users.

The regulator says this extra sub-band would increase the number of 80 MHz channels for Wi-Fi from four to six, to accommodate data-hungry applications, hopefully “in a few years.”

As to how even more airwaves in the 5 GHz range might help meet growing demand, Ofcom says it is “keen” to work with the industry to come up with solutions and safeguards.

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.

“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 Wi-Fi.”

For now though, and addressing the 6m Brits whose Wi-Fi isn’t working as well as it should, Marnick recommended ensuring that the router is up-to-date and using the regulator’s app.


May 18, 2016
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