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back to article Should UK tear Wi-Fi a new one at 5GHz? Speak your brains, says Ofcom

Ofcom, Blighty's fearless watchdog of the airwaves, wants to know if Wi-Fi needs more space. The regulator is willing to allocate more radio spectrum to wireless networking - and wants Brits to be able to use those frequencies without the regulator having to auction them off to a corporate giant. The consultation is, strictly …

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Bronze badge

Does anyone know where exactly (in Hz or m) on the dial Ofcom's jurisdiction starts and stops?

I assume it's something a bit less vague than "all frequencies below infra-red".

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Anonymous Coward

I suspect it's pretty much "DC to light", and I wouldn't be sure it stops there.

Still, since Ofcom is not so much fearless as toothless I doubt it matters. It will do whatever its political masters tell it to.

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Headmaster

The low end of the allocated spectrum range is 9KHz (though I think it may have been lowered recently). The high end is currently 275GHz.

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Silver badge

Fire up a 100W FM rig with a nice antenna, say somewhere between 97-99Mhz. Give it about half an hour and then tell me OFCOM are toothless.

Of course they will do what their "political masters" tell them to. They're a govt watchdog. They enforce the govt's rules.

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Megaphone

re: "Fire up a 100W FM rig with a nice antenna, say somewhere"

Would Radio 1 listeners really notice?

If you want to guarantee a response you want to aim your 100W FM rig around 92-95 MHz.

suggest, just as the Plutocrat classes are settling down to tonight's episode of "The Archers".

Loud hailer icon - well 100W FM rig.

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Mushroom

Only if we get a sensible increase in transmitter power / gain also. To say 1 Watt ERP.

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9KHz sounds low, no pun intended (since human ears can hear frequencies up to 20KHz).

Got a cite?

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Silver badge

Not passing through walls is the major advantage of 5GHz

Round our way - semirural - I can see eighteen different 2.4GHz networks and one 5GHz network - mine.

Guess which one has least contention and highest throughput?

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Re: Not passing through walls is the major advantage of 5GHz

Similar here - I'm in flats, so a quick fire up of inSSIDer reveals 34 2.4GHz networks (one of which is mine), and just one 5GHz network (mine).

My work iPhone and an oldish (pre-5GHz) laptop are the only things left on my 2.4GHz network, and using those is painfully slow in comparison.

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Unhappy

Re: Not passing through walls is the major advantage of 5GHz

You're lucky that your internal walls aren't solid. 5GHz just doesn't work here in my 1920s built house where all the walls are brick, which is a shame really.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Not passing through walls is the major advantage of 5GHz

I know they can be unsightly, but have you guys ever heard of wires?

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Re: Not passing through walls is the major advantage of 5GHz

WiFi doesn't pass through (solid or foil backed) walls.

It does pass easily through doorways, wood (most doors), plasterboard, and windows, and it's more easily refracted as it does so, which is why you see so many neighbours. (MIMO helps a LOT with interference issues)

Like A Known Coward, I don't see 5GHz through brick walls on the same floor (the red colour is iron oxide....), however it passes easily through the floor and ceiling.

When studying microwave propagation 25 years ago, I never dreamed that I'd be applying those principles to calculate how useable a signal would be within 30 metres of the source - or how much intereference is tolerable from neighbouring sources.

The 2.45GHz band is hopelessly overcrowded, yet there's still a lot of equipment being sold which doesn't do 5GHz (most of it is regarded as "enterprise" rather than "consumer") and it doesn't help that there are holes and restrictions on 5GHz use outdoors (only about 40% of 5GHz channels are legal to use in Europe and half of those are heavily restricted in case they interfere with weather and airport radar).

Opening up all channels for indoor use and CLEARLY documenting outdoor restrictions would go a long way towards making things easier (There are a bunch of illegal external 5GHz installations close to me, within 15km of Gatwick and RIGHT on the western approach path)

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Bronze badge

Re: Not passing through walls is the major advantage of 5GHz

Simple solution put your AP in the loft and attach a directional antenna pointing downwards, just like they do with office installs. Certainly this has been the simplest solution to networking an old farmhouse with 2 foot thick stone walls.

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Re: Not passing through walls is the major advantage of 5GHz

Once documented it is no longer a bug but a feature.

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Re: Not passing through walls is the major advantage of 5GHz

When one's internal walls' thickness can be measured in feet rather than inches then sometimes wires are a pain to install.

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Re: Not passing through walls is the major advantage of 5GHz

If you can get access to/through the basement or attic, you don't have to run the wires through walls. Emerge at the edge of the wall and terminate in surface-mount RJ45 jacks.

Use those to connect to a dual-band router (easily converted to Access Point by connecting to a LAN port instead of the WAN/Internet port, and disabling its DHCP server) in each room where you want WiFi.

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"There are disadvantages to using signals at 5GHz: they have a shorter range than 2.4GHz transmissions and they can't pass through walls and other solid things quite as well."

This can, depending on application, also be considered a considerable advantage!

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"This can, depending on application, also be considered a considerable advantage!"

Yup - and interference to/from neighbours on 2.4GHz can be migitated by dialling the tx power downward, but noone will ever think of that unless nudged (It's something that equipment should do by itself, like cellular and tetra systems do)

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re. 5GHz and walls

I was thinking about putting a WiFi router or WiFi extender high up in the loft and using a directional antenna to spray the signal downwards. Is 5GHz easily stopped by plasterboard and cheap floorboards?

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Thumb Up

Re: re. 5GHz and walls

I reckon you'd likely still see reasonable signal through a couple of thin(ish) walls/floors. I think the big problem is brick...

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Silver badge

Re: re. 5GHz and walls

I've found you get around 50-60% drop through one internal brick wall so pushing through plasterboard might be a little easier.

The fact that you may have no other interference may help the lower signal strength work just fine.

I don't regret going 5Ghz.

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Silver badge

Re: re. 5GHz and walls

WiFi is stopped by walls of metal (or metal oxide) and water.

Concrete has a very high water content - this makes it hard in buildings made out of this.

The red colour in brick is iron oxide - Ditto

Foil-backed plaster board is pretty obvious - it's used almost exclusively in new builds (even with wooden framing) and in refurbs - and it has even higher attentuation than brick.

The best location is indoors - away from a window/external doorway and close to an internal doorway. Inter-floor cavities are fine unless sand-filled (some victorian buildings did this to reduce nose) as most sands used contain high levels of metal oxides.

Please don't mount in the attic though - this means any signal which leaks will travel further than from lower mounting points (Most upper/attic floors on domestic buildings don't use internal brick walls, so leakage is more common). The middle or lowest floor is best.

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Happy

Re: re. 5GHz and walls

I can also recommend the TP-LInk W8980 router.

I got mine two weeks ago to replace my three year old Draytek 2710Vn (the wi-fi card had cooked itself plus other issues, shame really).

Flashed with the latest firmware its working a treat. I decided to split my wi-fi into two separate networks (2.4 and 5) so all the new gear uses 5Ghz and older gear uses 2.4. You do have to dig a little to get all the main settings though. But once done that's it.

I live in the centre of a city so around me are about 25+ networks on 2.4. On 5, I'm the only one.

Bliss!

One change I might make however, is to open it up and put some ram heatsinks on the main chips. I tend to do that with all my routers and similar kit. Though the Draytek did have heatsinks (well it did cost more) but not on the wi-fi card........

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Bronze badge

Re: re. 5GHz and walls @frank ly

Recommend you do a 5Ghz N install so get the full benefits of multiple frequencies/signal paths.

Whilst it is tempting to put kit high in the loft, do remember in most typical UK roofs the insulation is on the floor and in summer the roof space does heat up significantly, leading kit being 'baked'. I would keep the in loft kit low and semi insulated from the loft. Additionally, there are some good looking directional antennas that you could attach to the ceiling (top of stairs can give the best vertical propagation through a house), thereby avoiding signal loss due to the first ceiling/loft floor.

What I've found from both enterprise and SoHo installs, is that much is made of the differences between 2.4 and 5 ranges and ability to penetrate a build's fabric, but for most purposes where the kit will be used within 20 metres of a good quality AP there is no appreciable difference. Most of the differences I've seen have arisen from interference from neighbouring networks on the same (2.4) frequencies and older/cheap devices that don't support the full data rate (ie. 802.11b capable only even though the specification says b/g compatible, this was common problem some years back when many VoWiFi handsets were 802.11b).

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There's only frequency that I want

One point twenty one giga Hertz!

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Headmaster

Re: There's only frequency that I want

Running at a cool one point twenty one giga WATTS I presume?

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"there's little or no congestion"

Oh great. I've just had to buy a new video sender because my old one (which worked on 2.4Ghz) became unusable due to the amount of interference and now it looks like the replacement is going to end up with the same problem :-(

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Anonymous Coward

Patently obvious

Will this new range require some new tech that is not covered by the Aussie wifi patent that is about to expire? i.e. a new source of income for some corporate? Just a question.

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Anonymous Coward

Regulate/allocate consumer devices such that bandwidth is inversely proportional to propagation.

That is all.

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Boffin

That already happens in fact it's pretty much inherent:-

Want to communicate with a submarine on the other side of the planet? No problem - use 16Khz and a missile range to rig up your 40 mile long antenna and you'll penetrate even the deepest ocean - trouble is with a usable bandwidth of less than 100 cycles/sec you'll be limited to about 5 words a minutes in morse code.

Want 10Gbps data transfer across the room? No problem - use a carrier freq of 50Ghz and you'll have oodles of spare bandwidth to give you that throughput and a simple gunn diode will easily give you the amount of power needed to progate 10 feet.

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Anonymous Coward

Open up channel 14 on 2.4Ghz

The FTC could do with legalising channel 14 so there'd be third more non contentious space on the existing 2.4Ghz spectrum. Or is there another reason why I can't legally declare my router's country as Japan and use 14?

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Z80

Re: Open up channel 14 on 2.4Ghz

Unless it was properly opened up by the regulators you'd be limited to 802.11b on channel 14 assuming your kit correctly complies with the current standards.

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WIthout ability to penetrate walls etc, you are reduced to Bluetooth essentially. Ugh.

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Ethernet over Mains supply

I use a Ethernet over power lines to rooms that don't get a good signal, the termination points all have a wifi capability as well as an ethernet port. Plug a "sender" into my router, and a "receiver" in a mains socket elsewhere and off you go.

It may not shift data as fast as a good direct signal, but it does mean that a far away room has wifi and Ethernet in it. In my case it's good enough to use IP TV on my main TV and that needs an average of 2Mb/S data stream.

An extra bonus is that you can use different channels and SSID's on each one to further minimise contention.

The ones I use are by Dlink, and encrypt the signal on your "Mains" network and there are plenty of other manufacturers to choose from.

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