Ofcom calls Brits to speak their mind about 5GHz WiFi (or forever hold your peace)

British airwaves regulator Ofcom is calling for citizen’s opinions about whether the 5GHz frequency should be freely available for public use, or otherwise auctioned off to a corporate giant.

Ofcom’s job is to ensure the efficient use of radio frequencies. As usage increases this role is becoming ever more important for preventing any interference - especially within shared spectrums.

The typical 2.4GHz - used by the majority of WiFi devices - is becoming overcrowded, with the resulting conflicts between them causing a slowdown in speed and a decrease in reliability.

By opening up the relatively unused 5GHz band; this would reduce congestion, but also has its disadvantages to usability. The frequency doesn’t pass through walls or solid objects as well as its 2.4GHz brethren - fine for small areas - but larger buildings and homes will run into some difficulties.

Through moving existing devices such as car keys, baby listeners, and game controllers to 5GHz - this would clear up 2.4GHz for further range usage; whilst increasing speed and reliability.

With the current interest in “The Internet of Things” London-based Ofcom is keen to open up more wireless frequencies; primarily to help support the resulting rise of M2M (Machine-to-Machine) communications. This consultation is held ahead of the World Radio Conference in 2015, where a further 300MHz is up for debate.

Also on the agenda – and expected by mid 2014 – is the widespread appeal of ‘Hotspot 2’ whereby citizens set up public outdoor access points, and every time a customer moves on to their individual networks, their mobile network pays the hotspot owner a small sum.

Similar to BT and FON’s partnership; this is expected to quickly multiply, thereby providing plenty of high-speed connections for public usage. The introduction of such a network should mean less “black spots” with citizens ideally always having either LTE mobile data, or Wi-Fi enabled internet access available for their utilisation.

This all requires careful allocation. Interestingly, as part of the consultation, Ofcom is allowing anyone to request a frequency or two in which to set up experimental transmissions – hoping to spur independent innovation and exploration of these bands.

You can submit your thoughts and see further details via Ofcom’s “Spectrum Sharing” (PDF)

What do you think about the allocation of 5GHz for WiFi? Should it be opened for public usage? Or even auctioned for corporate use?

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13 Aug 2013, 8:37 a.m.

This would leave a lot of WISP's with no business? Am unsure what this would mean for 5Ghz routers and equipment? Although the 5Ghz spectrum is a bunfight to say the least....take a look at Hull, for example, where 10% of the residents are supplied broadband through a WISP because of the KC "non monopoly" on telephone lines...they all seem to "happily" co-exist. Think Ofcom have bigger fish to fry?