Ofcom Asks For Input On 5GHz Spectrum Allocation

Ofcom launches a public consultation into spectrum sharing, with a focus on Wi-Fi and M2M

Ofcom has launched a public consultation to establish whether it should release more 5GHz spectrum for free use, or sell it at an auction, like it did with the 800MHz and 2.6GHz spectrum bands.

Opening more radio waves for Wi-Fi use would reduce congestion and improve the overall performance of wireless networks. However, the 5GHz band offers shorter range and worse penetration that the widely used 2.4GHz band.

Keeping more spectrum open should also help the development of Machine-to-Machine (M2M) communication. Widely publicised research by Ericsson suggests that the number of everyday devices and appliances connected to the Internet will reach 50 billion by 2020.

Carving up the air

The consultation follows the announcement a new communications policy by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) late last month. Among other things, the policy calls for “more flexible” spectrum management system, which will allow Ofcom to redistribute frequencies that are underused.

router wireless © bagpereira - Fotolia 2A recent study commissioned by the watchdog found that the current spectrum allocation for Wi-Fi at 2.4 and 5 GHz is likely to be under pressure by 2020, and that additional spectrum may be required to continue to meet expected demand.

As more devices connect to the Internet, frequencies set aside for Wi-Fi could become overcrowded. Certain locations could suffer from interference, mostly caused by densely-packed access points operating on adjacent, overlapping channels.

As a possible solution, Ofcom proposes to increase the amount of spectrum at 5 GHz available to Wi-Fi devices. Switching certain less critical hardware from the current 2.4GHz band to 5GHz would improve speed and reliability of Wi-Fi. In addition, the 5GHz band uses non-overlapping channels, which means less interference.

However, Ofcom says any solution will have to take into account the level of interference protection required by other spectrum users in the 5 GHz band, including military radar and earth exploration satellite services.

The watchdog will welcome any thoughts on the topic until 7 November 2013.

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