Ofcom Confirms 6GHz Spectrum Wi-Fi

11-08-2020 |   |  By Robin Mitchell

Wi-Fi 6 is starting to make its way into the commercial sector, but some aspects of Wi-Fi 6 require local authorities to allow the use of the 6GHz band. What is Wi-Fi 6, and what role does Ofcom’s 6GHz play in its introduction into the UK market?

What is Wi-Fi 6?

Wi-Fi 6 is the next generation of Wi-Fi technology that utilises both 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands to provide high-speed internet connectivity, better security, and the ability to handle more devices than its predecessors. These goals are achieved using a range of different technologies, including Massive-In Massive-Out (MIMO) antenna, Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiple Access (OFDMA), and Transmit Beamforming. While Wi-Fi 6 speed is rated up to 10gbps, its real aim is to provide wireless networks with the ability to connect to hundreds of different devices simultaneously without sacrificing connection speed (a common problem with current Wi-Fi networks). As such, Wi-Fi 6 is poised to revolutionise the Internet of Things (IoT) and Edge computing by providing greater range, speed, and simultaneous device connectivity. 

Wi-Fi 6 vs Wi-Fi 5

To better understand the differences between Wi-Fi 6 and Wi-Fi 5, the table below shows a side-by-side comparison.

Are Wi-Fi 6  compatible devices currently available?

But are Wi-FI 6 compatible devices on the market yet? The short answer is yes, Wi-Fi 6 devices and routers are currently being manufactured. However, while Wi-Fi 6 routers support previous versions of Wi-Fi, older devices will not be able to take full advantage of Wi-Fi 6. Older devices that connect to a Wi-Fi 6 router will take advantage of being able to support more devices on the same network, but higher connection speeds will only be enjoyed by Wi-Fi 6 devices. By default, most Wi-Fi devices being released now support Wi-Fi 6, and thus as devices in the home are replaced (such as mobile and laptops), Wi-Fi 6 will slowly be integrated. 

What is Wi-Fi 6e?

One major change that Wi-Fi 6 is beginning to see is the use of a new radio band, 6GHz. You would be forgiven to think that Wi-Fi 6 would be called so because of the use of the 6GHz spectrum. However, the truth is that Wi-Fi 6 is called so because Wi-Fi 6 is the 6th generation of Wi-Fi. Wi-Fi that uses the 6GHz spectrum is called Wi-Fi 6e, and this is only available in countries that have opened up the 6GHz spectrum. The use of the 6GHz is a monumental step for Wi-Fi devices as this frequency band has significantly lower interference. For example, devices on the 2.4GHz band are affected by microwave ovens as these also operate on 2.4GHz, while there are very few (if any), devices that operate on the 6GHz spectrum. This means that Wi-Fi 6e devices can make maximum use of the clean spectrum, which results in higher speeds, lower latency, and more reliable connections. The use of 6GHz also gives routers an additional frequency band to connect devices to. Thus networks can separate devices into three entirely separate bands (this does not even consider the channels in each band).  

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Ofcom releases the 6GHz spectrum

The Ofcom 6GH spectrum plays a critical role in Wi-Fi 6e technology.  As an authority that decides what frequency devices are allowed to transmit on, Ofcom regulations help shape the wireless communication landscape. Until recently, Wi-Fi devices were only allowed to transmit on the 2.4GHz and 5GHz spectrums, which prevented the sale and operation of Wi-Fi 6e devices. However, upon review of the importance of Wi-Fi 6e, Ofcom has decided to open the 6GHz spectrum to Wi-Fi 6e devices which allow the operation and sale of 6GHz products. To be more specific, the 5GHz spectrum has been expanded into the 6GHz spectrum to create a continuous spectrum from 5925MHz to 6425MHz. The releasing of this spectrum also allows low power devices to transmit outdoors, which will help with the development of new applications. Another benefit to releasing the 6GHz spectrum is the decongestion of networks in public areas that offer free Wi-Fi. During times of high demand, these networks can become difficult to use, and dissuade customs from using such networks. Introducing the 6GHz means that more customers can utilise the same free Wi-Fi access point, and thus encourage spending (whether it be in the form of a café or a restaurant). 

Wi-Fi 6, Wi-Fi 6E, and Ofcom’s 6GHz Spectrum - How Wi-Fi 6 is Poised as a Disruptor 

Wi-Fi 6 will provide the industry with an entirely new spectrum, and connection possibilities not currently available. The use of Wi-Fi 6 will further enable technologies such as IoT and home automation thanks to its ability to allow for more simultaneous connected devices, while also ensuring that each device connected retains a quality connection and transfer speed. 


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By Robin Mitchell

Robin Mitchell is an electronic engineer who has been involved in electronics since the age of 13. After completing a BEng at the University of Warwick, Robin moved into the field of online content creation developing articles, news pieces, and projects aimed at professionals and makers alike. Currently, Robin runs a small electronics business, MitchElectronics, which produces educational kits and resources.

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