Ofcom sets out plans to speed up Wi-Fi connections


Regulator wants to open up more airwaves for Wi-Fi channels to carry more data at faster speeds 

Ofcom has set out plans designed to help speed up WiFi connections for millions of users across the UK.

The proposals would open up more airwaves for Wi-Fi channels to enable larger amounts of data to be carried at faster download speeds, which the regulator said would improve quality of service, especially for apps that require more internet capacity.

Ofcom is proposing to open up an additional ‘sub-band’ within the 5GHz frequency range for Wi-Fi. This would increase the number of 80MHz channels available for Wi-Fi from four to six. It added the additions, which are already being used in the US, could be opened up in a few years.

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Many Wi-Fi routers in the UK currently use the 2.4GHz spectrum band, which Ofcom said is becoming increasingly congested and can impair broadband performance. It added many now have newer routers, which not only use this band, but also the 5GHz band, which has more spectrum and is less congested.

Closing the gap

The regulator said it is keen to work with the industry to understand how even more airwaves in the 5GHz range might help meet growing demand and in particular how and when additional spectrum should be made available, with safeguards to protect existing users.

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

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“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.

“In the meantime, people can check their router is up to date, and use our Wi-Fi Checker app to test if it’s working properly.”

Move is “vital”

Cable.co.uk telecoms analyst Dan Howdle said: “Customers with new connections often believe the slow speed they’re experiencing is indicative of a fault, when Wi-Fi interference is often the culprit. Providers advise connecting an ethernet cable to experience the full speed customers are paying for, but, of course, wiring up every device in the house is both unsightly and impractical.

“Interference is an issue in built up areas where a multitude of routers compete for priority over the same frequencies. Those with particularly fast broadband connections are in many cases only able to tap a fraction of their top speed over Wi-Fi.

“Interference is going to become a major issue for our country’s digital growth. Ofcom’s move to open up further bandwidth is vital if we’re to continue to depend on wireless connectivity.”