Current developments in Wi-Fi spectrum


The allocation of radio spectrum is a fiercely contested matter. Government regulators—the FCC in the U.S., OFCOM in the U.K., and others—manage spectrum as a national resource. They seek to balance the needs of various groups, including cellular operators, government users, scientific and amateur radio groups. And, of course, they represent the public both directly and via their political masters.

Industries that depend on access to spectrum must work hard to ensure continuing access, and they must head off proposals for new services that might cause interference. As established users of the 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz bands, here are some of the areas where the Wi-Fi industry is active today, working with regulators.

The main concern in 2.4 GHz is with some spectrum allocated to Globalstar, a U.S. company. This is at the edge of the current band in what would be channel 14. Over recent years, Globalstar has repeatedly sought to build out commercial service. Its latest proposal would use this spectrum, originally intended for satellite downlinks to mobile phones, for terrestrial LTE networks. The main concern in the Wi-Fi industry is that any new service should not interfere with adjacent, existing Wi-Fi communications at the top end of the band.

Threats and opportunities for Wi-Fi

In the 5 GHz band, there are several opportunities and threats for Wi-Fi. We talk of 5 GHz as a whole, but of course it is made up of a number of sub-bands.

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