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UK consults on increased spectrum

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The UK’s Dynamic Spectrum Alliance (DSA) has welcomed the decision by Ofcom, the independent regulator and competition authority for the UK communications industries, to consult on a proposal to increase the amount of spectrum available to WiFi in the 5 GHz band.
Ofcom is proposing to open up an additional ‘sub-band’, focusing on the 5725-5850MHz range, within the 5GHz frequency range for WiFi. The extra sub-band would increase the number of 80MHz channels available for WiFi from four to six, to accommodate data-hungry applications. The DSA welcomes all these proposals, and this decision would pave the way for larger amounts of data to be carried at faster download speeds in the UK.
“Given almost all new routers and consumer client devices on the market can now use both the 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz bands, this is eminently sensible,” says Professor Nwana, executive director of the Dynamic Spectrum Alliance. “Creating two additional 80 MHz channels will be key to relieving the pressure that is currently put on airwaves carrying WiFi signals in the UK, particularly with new and larger bandwidth Wi-Fi standards like 802.11ac.”
Following the recent decision by Ofcom to implement TV white space (TVWS) regulations, enabling access to the unused parts of radio spectrum in the 470 to 790MHz frequency band in the UK, the DSA, which champions spectrum sharing, believes that the next best alternative to license-exempting devices for access and shared spectrum is dynamic spectrum management.
Dynamic spectrum management would allow for innovative sharing with different services across the sub-bands, ushering in considerable innovation. The DSA believes the existing static models used for allocating spectrum are inherently inefficient. Exclusive utilisation of spectrum bands when it could be shared in most cases exacerbates the inefficiency even further.
“The DSA is all about promoting and enabling spectrum sharing of all guises. This means we prefer balancing more shared spectrum utilisation over exclusive utilisation, balancing static allocation with more dynamic allocation and balancing licensed regulations with more unlicensed regulation. So naturally, we support plans worldwide to open up more spectrum to unlicensed access from devices and unlicensed sharing,” adds Nwana.
A core DSA position rests on introducing dynamic spectrum sharing and management in pertinent bands. This would enable access to spectrum to be coordinated in realtime (or near-realtime), and the amount of spectrum adjusted depending on the service demand at any given moment, whilst taking into account geographic characteristics. In its response to Ofcom, the DSA proposes that such dynamic spectrum thinking would allow for innovative sharing with different services across the sub-bands, ushering in considerable innovation, even in some of 5GHz sub-bands that already has other services operating in them, e.g. Wi-Fi sharing radars in 5725-5850MHz.
“We believe that Ofcom should continue to take a strong leading position in promoting spectrum sharing. Ofcom should clearly state that where licence-exempt usage is not feasible, sharing should become the default way to access spectrum,” Nwana concluded.
The Ofcom decision to consult on this proposal follows its 2014 Mobile Data Strategy which set the objective of opening additional spectrum for Wi-Fi in the 5 GHz band. The most commonly used spectrum band for Wi-Fi in the UK currently is 2400-2483 MHz but the demand in 5 GHz is rapidly catching up as new equipment standards are developed. The aim is to help ease current and future capacity constraints for Wi-Fi. The 5735-5850 MHz spectrum band is already used for Wi-Fi in a number of other countries, including the US, but is not currently utilised for Wi-Fi in Europe.
The DSA also welcomes Ofcom’s exploration of outdoor restrictions on WiFi access to the 5150-5350MHz range and encourages its intention to retain a longer term objective to release spectrum in the 5350-5470 MHz and 5850-5925 MHz ranges during the consultation.
“As broadband delivery to the home gets faster, consumers are increasingly expecting their Wi-Fi to keep up with the demand of video streaming, video calls, gaming and remote working simultaneously on one network,” comments Rich Kennedy, board director of DSA, chair of the IEEE 802.18 Radio Regulatory Technical Advisory Group and director” global spectrum strategy at HP Enterprise. “To keep up with this consumer demand for high speed WiFi, more spectrum must be made available in the 5GHz band. Ofcom’s decision to look into opening up two more 80MHz channels in the 5GHz band is a great step forward in providing the WiFi coverage UK consumers expect.”