More 5GHz spectrum goodness

Today Nigel Bowden (definitely worth a follow on twitter) drew attention to Ofcom’s March decision to open up more spectrum for indoor wifi use.

UNII-3 contains channels 149-161 which so far have been available for use in the UK for outdoor links, required a license (albeit a very cheap one) and Ofcom allowed TX power of up to 4w. This was particularly useful for linking remote buildings, and a know a few people who make use of this band because there’s no risk of building wifi interfering with the outdoor link.

From 17 August 2017 it’s all change and this spectrum is instead made available, unlicensed, for indoor wifi use. The restrictions are much the same as the UNII-1 band, channels 36-48, with power limited to 200mw eirp.

For most wifi operators this is most welcome as it gives us an additional four 20MHz channels to play with. For high density networks, and demand for the high throughput capabilities of channel bonding the more spectrum we have available the better.

It should be noted the language is quite specific regarding outdoor use:

“Equipment must not form part of a fixed outdoors installation when operating in 5730 – 5850 MHz”

This means if you have wireless bridges using the UNII-3 band it’s time to make some changes. This may come as a bit of a blow for many users of the affordable Ubiquiti and Mikrotik wifi bridge devices. Using the licensed UNII-3 band made a lot of sense. There are other options, including using the existing radios on UNII-2 channels, albeit with a lower power limitation.

This also applies to any outdoor APs. I would hope that any vendor making dedicated outdoor APs has a nice easy option to ensure the regulatory domain honours the rules and doesn’t set these APs to channels 149-161, but in reality it will be worth checking that’s actually what happens.

So officially we can start using these channels on our indoor wifi from the 17th of August. Whether your client devices will actually use these channels is a different matter. Odds are it won’t take Apple very long to push out an update to iOS and Mac OS with the new regulatory domain information. It might be a different matter for the large numbers of, never updated, Android devices we see on our network. Either way, there’s some lab work and testing to do before putting the new channels into production use.

For more information, see the Ofcom website. The pertinent document is Interface Requirements 2030. Here is the decision statement from Ofcom.

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