Ofcom consults on Extremely High Frequency and wifi spectrum rules

January 21, 2020

Ofcom has launched two consultations with the aim of increasing the reliability of wifi for both individuals and businesses as well as opening access to Extremely High Frequency spectrum.

Ofcom manages the UK’s airwaves – or spectrum. Spectrum is a finite resource that is essential for wireless services including wifi. It forms the invisible infrastructure that supports all devices needing to communicate without wires – such as televisions, car key fobs, baby monitors, wireless microphones and satellites. Mobile phones use spectrum to connect to a local mast so people can make calls and access the internet. Only a limited amount of spectrum is available, so it needs to be managed carefully. Certain bands of spectrum are also used for different purposes such as wifi.

Wifi is increasingly used for everyday activities. According to Ofcom, a typical household uses up to 315GB of broadband data a month, which is the equivalent of watching up to four hours of HD video a day.

As a result, Ofcom is reviewing the current rules around spectrum with the aim of ensuring that future demand can be met and to help pave the way for new, innovative uses. Ofcom is proposing to make additional spectrum available for wifi in the 6 GHz frequency band, without the need for a licence. It is also proposing changes to technical requirements elsewhere in the spectrum, which is used by some wifi routers.

These measures are aimed at helping people to get a more reliable wifi connection. This will help them to benefit from increasingly popular technology such as ultra-high definition streaming, virtual reality and augmented reality.

The second consultation relates to Ofcom’s proposals to open access to the Extremely High Frequency (EHF) spectrum. Currently, this is not widely used.  However, Ofcom says that EHF spectrum will be vital for developing innovative future services across a range of industries. These could include health screening applications such as detecting skin cancer, enabling applications across the Internet of Things, and immersive holograms.

Ofcom proposes to enable greater access to EHF in the 100-200 GHz frequency range, given the potential to support a range of new wireless services in the future. Other countries are also looking to use these spectrum bands, including the recent decision of the Federal Communications Commission to make them available in the USA. By increasing access to this spectrum, UK innovators – and, in future, consumers – could benefit from international research collaboration, as well as economies of scale as new internationally compatible devices are likely to emerge.

Ofcom’s view is that this would help position the UK at the forefront of developing new services to use this spectrum and in doing so help deliver benefits to individuals and businesses.

Both consultations run until 20th March.