02 Jun 2015

Wi-Fi spectrum issues in broadened WBA remit

Wi-Fi is now an embedded element of mobile connectivity. Mobile operators who once saw Wi-Fi as a competitor. Now thinking has changed and Wi-Fi is seen as an opportunity to enable offload to take place.

As data traffic rockets from the general increased use of Wi-Fi and the fact that mobile operators are encouraging its use for data offload, strategies and plans need to be in place not only to push forward the standards like IEEE 802.11, but also to enable other key issues to be resolved.

While many interests are campaigning hard for more spectrum for 4G and further into the future for 5G services, little has been done within the industry to coordinate the future requirements for Wi-Fi spectrum. Currently most of the Wi-Fi traffic is carried over the unlicensed spectrum bands at 2.4 and 5 GHz, although there are options for TV white space, sub-GHz bands and also license exempt frequencies above 60GHz. Sadly there is little allocated Wi-Fi spectrum between 5GHz and 60GHz and the bands below 1GHz and TV white space are unlikely to meet the needs for all the users. Accordingly new Wi-Fi spectrum is almost certainly needed.

Although the fact that Wi-Fi coverage is generally localised because of the power levels and frequencies used, as usage increases and speeds rise, more spectrum will be needed. With the spectrum allocation conferences, World radio Conferences taking place every four years and planning for these taking many years, a coordinated industry effort is needed to ensure that the needed Wi-Fi spectrum allocations are made available in good time.

In addition to this, LTE-U - the version of 4G LTE using unlicensed 5GHz spectrum to carry data, there could be a conflict of interests as many mobile operators also want to use this spectrum for general Wi-Fi and capacity offload.

In addition to this, Wi-Fi is becoming used for more applications. Traditionally it was seen as a relatively low capacity system, it is now addressing many other areas as well.

As a result there is a need for a coordinated effort to put the case for more spectrum at the forthcoming World Radio Conferences which are held every four years. The next one is at the end of 2015 and then there is one scheduled for 2019. Much preparatory work needs to be undertaken and industry organisations need to be well prepared. To help meet this need the Wireless Broadband Alliance, amongst others is gearing up to meet these needs.

Said Ton Brand, Senior Director Marketing and Industry Development at Wireless Broadband Alliance: "The WBA is broadening its focus beyond Public Wi-Fi into a range of new areas where the technology is now being applied such as; IoT, Big Data, Converged Services and 5G. At the same time we are also aiming to become more actively involved in the discussions around policy, spectrum and regulatory topics,"

By Ian Poole

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