Ofcom proposes new rules to help boost wifi

17 January 2020

People and businesses could benefit from more reliable wifi, thanks to proposals set out by Ofcom today.

Ofcom manages the UK’s airwaves – or spectrum – a finite resource that is essential for wireless services including wifi.

Wifi is increasingly used for the everyday activities that people and businesses depend on – a typical household uses up to 315GB of broadband data a month, that’s the equivalent of watching up to four hours of HD video a day.

So, we’re reviewing the existing rules around spectrum to make sure future demand can be met and to help pave the way for new, innovative uses.

We’re proposing to make additional spectrum available for wifi in the 6 GHz frequency band, without the need for a licence. We’re 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 be help them to benefit from increasingly popular technology such as ultra-high definition streaming, virtual reality and augmented reality.

The consultation for these proposals is open until 20 March.

We have also today proposed to open access to what’s known as Extremely High Frequency (EHF) spectrum.

While not widely used at the moment, 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.

This is part of our ongoing work to support wireless innovation, by making sure people and organisations can access the spectrum they need.

The consultation on our EHF spectrum proposals is open until 20 March.

What is spectrum?

Spectrum is 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.