If Ofcom has its way, you could be in store for faster wi-fi in your UK home or office within the next couple of years. The independent regulator and competitive authority recently unveiled plans to improve wi-fi speeds by opening up additional channels by which routers and wireless devices can communicate. Now it's up to the regulator to implement those goals in a sensible way.
Right now, most wi-fi routers in the UK use the 2.4 GHz band of radio frequencies for wireless communications. While this band has been reliable for more than a decade, it is becoming increasingly more congested due to the high demands of modern internet use. Between streaming, cloud computing, and other means of high-capacity networking, the 2.4 GHz band is having trouble keeping up. This means slower speeds between the router and wireless device.
The Ofcom plan calls for opening up the 5 GHz band with a few additional sub-bands that are significantly less congested and offer a wider frequency range. This band was chosen because Ofcom believes it can be utilised without interfering with other technologies, such as satellite television for example.
Faster Wi-Fi Means Better Broadband
Opening up additional wi-fi frequencies may not mean much to the average broadband user who has no idea how wi-fi routers work. That being the case, we believe it is appropriate to offer a brief explanation.
When data communications enter a property through a wi-fi router, that router must then pass signals to mobile devices using radio frequencies. Seldom do routers transmit data as quickly as it is received. Comparing this to how we access water in the home is very helpful.
The typical kitchen sink fixture does not dispense water nearly as quickly or powerfully as the municipal water supply feeding the home. Instead, pressure and volume are scaled down using a number of devices between municipal connections and homes. Wi-fi routers work in a similar fashion. That's why advertised data transfer rates rarely line up with reality. Wi-fi technology is just not fast enough to keep up with current broadband speeds.
If you were to do a data transfer test on your home network using a modern laptop, you would likely find that both download and upload speeds do not match the speeds advertised by your broadband provider. Some of the slowdown may actually occur as data is moving across networking channels to reach your property, but not all of it. Much of the slowdown has to do with the wi-fi connection between your router and your laptop.
As Ofcom works to implement its proposals for faster wi-fi networking, we can assume router manufacturers will be getting on board to help them figure out how to make the best use of the 5 GHz band and its sub-bands. By the time Ofcom is ready to implement its proposals officially, there should be an ample supply of equipment capable of performing up to standard. Finally, it looks as though faster wi-fi might be on the way..
Source: Ofcom – http://consumers.ofcom.org.uk/news/speed-up-wifi-connections/