Executive Summary: This study focusses on the potential benefits, in terms of enhanced speed and capacity, of additional 5GHz spectrum for unlicensed Wi-Fi use in Europe.
Wireless is becoming the default way in which devices connect to the internet. Wi-Fi first gainedcommercial traction around 1999 and has grown enormously since. The development of the fixedbroadband market provided a stimulus for Wi-Fi, and Wi-Fi enhanced the value of broadbandconnectivity by supporting multiple devices and wireless connection to a single access point.
Wi-Fi supports a substantial share of access traffic to the internet in Western Europe; and this share isanticipated to grow to 60% of total internet traffic by 2016. In addition, Wi-Fi is increasingly utilised fordirect device-to-device connectivity (additional to internet traffic).
In terms of existing demand there is evidence that Wi-Fi (primarily utilising 2.4 GHz spectrum), atparticular times and locations, is heavily contended resulting in reduced quality of service.
Althoughexisting 5 GHz spectrum is lightly used in many locations today this is expected to change quickly andin the foreseeable future additional spectrum would offer benefits.Not only is the diversity of devices utilising Wi-Fi growing rapidly, but devices increasingly incorporatethe potential to utilise the 5 GHz band (which was previously held back with 2.4 GHz only devices).
For example, smartphones have grown since 2007 from zero to over 50% adoption in some countries,yet the ability of smartphones to utilise the 5 GHz band is comparatively recent (for example, fromSeptember 2012 for the iPhone). As dual band devices and simultaneous dual band routersproliferate use of 5 GHz will increase rapidly.Demands in terms of expected quality of service will also increase due to rising broadband accessspeeds and growing use of cloud services. Further, the new 802.11ac Wi-Fi standard, to be finalisedin 2014, can support higher speeds, however the full benefit depends on the availability of widespectrum channels (up to 160 MHz compared to 20-40 MHz today).
The likelihood that a widechannel is available for a given user would increase with more available spectrum.
The existing 455 MHz of 5 GHz spectrum for Wi-Fi, pioneered by Europe, was assigned over 10 yearsago. Now Europe and the US are contemplating allowing Wi-Fi to share additional 5 GHz spectrum.Additional spectrum would provide greater capacity and support higher speeds in contendedenvironments involving shared use.