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Ofcom outlines plans to speed up UK wi-fi

Friday, May 13th 2016 by Ellen Branagh

The telecoms regulator has announced plans to help speed up wi-fi across the UK.

Ofcom says its proposals will allow larger amounts of data to be carried at faster download speeds, improving the quality of things like streaming and video calls.

The regulator’s proposals would effectively open up more airwaves – or radio spectrum – to cope with the increasing demand from consumers.

Ofcom said many wi-fi routers in the UK currently use a part of the spectrum called the 2.4GHz band, which is becoming increasingly congested and can also hamper broadband performance.

It said many people now have newer broadband routers, which also use the 5GHz band, which has much more spectrum and is less congested.

Ofcom is proposing to open up an extra ‘sub-band’ in the 5GHz frequency range for wi-fi to accommodate ‘data-hungry’ applications, while protecting existing users of that band, like satellite services.

Philip Marnick, group director of spectrum at Ofcom, said: “People are placing greater demands on their broadband, so we need to ensure they aren’t let down by their wireless connection.

“We also want to close the gap between advertised speeds and the wireless performance that people and businesses actually receive. So we’re exploring ways to open up more airwaves for wi-fi.”

Ofcom’s research has suggested that wireless broadband might not be working as well as it could in nearly 6m UK homes and offices, often due to the wi-fi set up.

Mr Marnick said people can use Ofcom’s free checker app to test how well their own wi-fi is working.

Quality of signal

The Ofcom Wi-Fi Checker, for smartphones and tablets, allows consumers and businesses to check the quality of their wireless internet signal wherever they live or work.

The free app tests the wi-fi set-up and, if it finds a problem, will provide some troubleshooting tips to help improve broadband.

Earlier this year, the Obamas highlighted their own problems with wi-fi, revealing they just can't get a decent signal in the White House.

And they're not alone. Last year, a poll by mobile network testing company Global Wireless Solutions (GWS) found that one in four Britons were forced to use their mobile data at home because their wi-fi is so poor.

One in seven (16%) respondents said while they were able to connect their mobile devices to their home wi-fi, the connection speed was so slow they choose to use data from their mobile plan instead.

According to the survey, bedrooms were the worst rooms in British houses for wi-fi coverage, with kitchens in second place and living rooms third.

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