By Claus Hetting, Wi-Fi NOW CEO & Chairman
It’s official: In a statement released today UK regulator Ofcom has announced its decision to free 500 MHz of spectrum in the 6 GHz band to indoor Wi-Fi use. Ofcom is also allowing Very Low Power (VLP) outdoor use and they’re removing the much-criticised DFS requirements in the 5.8 GHz band. All in all a historic day and a huge win for Wi-Fi and the future of unlicensed wireless in the United Kingdom.
Today’s regulatory decision is wireless history in the making for the United Kingdom: Ofcom this morning released a statement detailing their decision to release 500 MHz of 6 GHz band (specifically 5925-6425 MHz) to Wi-Fi for indoor use. The decision means that the United Kingdom becomes only the second country in the world to release 6 GHz band to Wi-Fi following the FCC’s decision on April 23. Ofcom’s decision – which was largely expected – marks another huge win for the Wi-Fi industry and a big leap forward towards global acceptance of 6 GHz as a Wi-Fi band.
The 500 MHz of new Wi-Fi spectrum for the UK is less than the US’ whopping 1.2 GHz-wide spectrum release but still constitutes a huge and historical leap forward in total spectrum available for Wi-Fi in the UK. The new spectrum will accommodate three new 160 MHz Wi-Fi channels or up to 24 new 20 MHz Wi-Fi channels (see graphic below) at an EIRP (indoor) of 250 mW. The new 6 GHz spectrum will nearly double available Wi-Fi spectrum in the UK and will in addition be DFS-free. Most of the 5 GHz band in the UK is today constrained by a DFS requirement.
According to chipset provider Broadcom, the new 6 GHz band will enable a massive increase in Wi-Fi data rates for phones: Up to five times what we typically experience today (up to a peak speed of 2 Gbps when using 160 MHz channels) and up to 1.4 Gbps at a distance of 7 meters within homes, offices, and public venues, Broadcom says. Because the spectrum is pristine (IEEE will not allow legacy devices, i.e. non-Wi-Fi 6 devices to operate in this band) 6 GHz Wi-Fi will be in a high-performance class of its own with a latency of as little as 2 milliseconds.
In one way Ofcom has even jumped ahead of the US with today’s decision: The UK regulator has decided also to release the same band for so-called VLP (Very Low Power) outdoor use (at an EIRP of 25 mW). VLP outdoor operation means that the 6 GHz band in the UK now can be used to create a shorter-range ‘personal wireless network’ of portable, interconnected wearables that for example can interact with the environment for more immersive experiences.
Today’s decision by Ofcom also includes making 125 MHz of 5.8 GHz spectrum DFS-free (5725-5850 MHz), which makes room for one additional DFS-free 80 MHz channel in 5 GHz. Until now only one other DFS-free 80 MHz channel has been available for Wi-Fi operation in the UK.
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In support of the decision Ofcom has released a comprehensive document, which is well worth reading and available here. With today’s spectrum decisions Ofcom has once again positioned itself as one of the world’s most progressive and forward-looking regulators. We can only hope that the rest of the world follows suit as quickly as possible.
Watch this space: We will shortly have a lot more coverage of the global push to secure the 6 GHz band to Wi-Fi. Next month (on August 18) we will be supporting Brazil’s efforts in securing the band with a dedicated special event, and in September we will bring India’s decision makers together in a Wi-Fi NOW special 6 GHz event for India. Stay tuned – a lot more to come.