Wi-Fi® study reveals need for additional unlicensed spectrum
March 09, 2017 by Alex Roytblat, Wi-Fi Alliance
Over the last two decades, Wi-Fi® has met user needs for two significant trends – near constant connection and an ever-growing demand for data. First, Wi-Fi has evolved from emerging technology to essential component of telecommunications infrastructure. Users rely on Wi-Fi as the primary means for internet access because Wi-Fi is ubiquitous, affordable, and offers performance that is well suited for current and emerging applications. Whether in the home, office, or outdoors, untethered internet access via Wi-Fi is essential for consumers worldwide. Second, user demand for data continues to grow at an exponential rate. IP traffic is projected to increase nearly threefold in the next five years with a majority of that traffic delivered over Wi-Fi.1
The availability of corresponding unlicensed spectrum access has not kept pace with the extraordinary growth and adoption of Wi-Fi, and Wi-Fi functionality is dependent on adequate unlicensed spectrum access. It’s no surprise that the projected continued growth in Wi-Fi use is likely to require additional unlicensed spectrum to support current and future operations. Recognizing this fact, Wi-Fi Alliance® commissioned an independent analysis to better assess future Wi-Fi spectrum needs.
The Wi-Fi Spectrum Needs Study undertakes a comprehensive analysis to determine the number of channels required to support Wi-Fi traffic by taking into consideration existing and future Wi-Fi device capabilities and deployment needs for business, residential, and public locations. The study evaluates two demand scenarios: the expected traffic growth and the potential unexpected increase that may come from novel applications. Built into the predictions are technology advancements, such as transmission rates, video coding improvements, and device capabilities. Findings include:
- The ever-growing number and diversity of Wi-Fi devices along with increased connection speeds and data traffic volumes will exceed the capacity of spectrum currently available in the 5 GHz band by 2020;
- Between 500 MHz and 1 GHz of additional spectrum in various world regions may be needed to support expected growth in Wi-Fi by 2020;
- If demand for Wi-Fi exceeds expected growth, then between 1.3 GHz and 1.8 GHz more spectrum may be required by 2025; and
- Wi-Fi spectrum needs to be sufficiently contiguous to support 160 MHz wide channels, which are required to support a growing number of bandwidth-intensive applications and to allow maximum Wi-Fi benefits to be attained.
The Wi-Fi Spectrum Needs Study provides evidence that expected growth in Wi-Fi use and deployment will exhaust available unlicensed spectrum capacity in the near future and additional spectrum allocations are required to ensure Wi-Fi functionality at the service level that users expect. Wi-Fi Alliance and its members are working to ensure that policymakers and regulators around the world are aware of the looming Wi-Fi spectrum crunch and take necessary actions to resolve the issue.
Those who share the same spectrum concerns are encouraged to join Wi-Fi Alliance activities!
1The Zettabyte Era — Trends and Analysis – Cisco
Senior Director, Worldwide Regulatory Affairs
Alex Roytblat is Senior Director of Worldwide Regulatory Affairs at Wi-Fi Alliance, where he is responsible for the organization’s overall regulatory strategy. In his role, Alex works with the Wi-Fi Alliance members and the executive team on the development of regulatory objectives and directs advocacy for the implementation of these objectives with governments, regulators and international organizations.
With over 20 years of experience in the field of international telecom regulations, Alex is an internationally recognized industry advocate. Prior to joining Wi-Fi Alliance, Alex served at the United States Federal Communications Commission (FCC), where he was involved in all phases of domestic and international radio spectrum management processes. Previously, Alex held technical roles for Stanford Telecommunications and Booz Allen & Hamilton.