By Claus Hetting, Wi-Fi NOW CEO & Chairman
Europe is lagging much of the rest of the world in allocation of 6 GHz spectrum for Wi-Fi and the consequences of this could be dire in multiple ways. Europe risks missing its own gigabit broadband goals while pushing future traffic to mobile networks is estimated to increase energy consumption by up to 16%. These are some of the key findings of a new sustainability report authored by WIK-Consult and commissioned by the Wi-Fi Alliance.
The battle for the airwaves – in particular the 6 GHz band – continues and the stakes are high as the telecoms world approaches the World Radiocommunication Conference 2023 (WRC-23) slated for November. Europe is thus far way behind in allocation of 6 GHz Wi-Fi spectrum and now a new report says that the continuation of such a policy would have dire unforeseen consequences for the environment.
The report – authored by WIK-Consult – says there’s no question that the demand for bandwidth is on the rise with up to 44% of European households expected to demand gigabit plus speeds by 2025. Meanwhile up to 80% of mobile traffic is consumed indoors and carried on Wi-Fi networks. These factors alone – as well as the rapid growth of FTTH broadband networks within the EU – means additional 6 GHz Wi-Fi spectrum will be badly needed within only a few years, the report says.
What makes the situation worse is the potential massive environmental impact. If broadband traffic is pushed to 5G networks instead of Wi-Fi (because of lack of unlicensed 6 GHz spectrum) energy consumption would rise by 16% equivalent to 3.2 megatons of CO2 per year, the report estimates. This is because FTTH and Wi-Fi networks together are much more energy efficient than 5G networks.
“These findings demonstrate that allocating the complete 6 GHz band for licence-exempt access including Wi-Fi contributes to reducing the energy consumption and environmental footprint of telecoms networks globally. In Europe, this is consistent with Europe’s goal of becoming the world’s first climate-neutral continent in 2050,” WYK-Consult says in the report.
Currently the EU allows Wi-Fi operation in only 480 MHz of the 6 GHz (lower) band while large parts of the rest of the world – including the USA, Brazil, Canada, Saudi Arabia, South Korea and others – have already allocated the full 1.2 GHz of 6 GHz spectrum. According to the report, Intel says tests have shown that without full 6 GHz allocation “a significant number of moderate to demanding future applications will not function as intended and therefore, residential, enterprise, government and industrial IoT users will not benefit from these applications.”
The report also points out that it will be increasingly difficult for 5G networks to provide indoor coverage and capacity because building penetration of 5G signals are hampered by both high frequencies and new EU energy efficiency mandates for building construction. Meanwhile densification of 5G networks to deliver better indoor coverage would be both costly and even more energy inefficient, the report says.