Telecoms regulator Ofcom has responded to capacity warnings from the European Commission by launching a consultation on increasing the breadth of the WiFi spectrum.
The body said that the spectrum would be "under pressure" by 2020 and recommended that the availability of the 5GHz spectrum should be increased.
Broadening the 5GHz spectrum would have the effect of not only easing the pressure on the existing spectrum but it would also help improve the coverage of mobile networks including 4G.
Ofcom said that it expected mobile data demand to increase by 80 times its current levels by 2030, requiring significant help for so-called "offloading" – sending mobile data to phones via short-range wireless signals – through WiFi hotspots.
The consultation, which lasts until November, will also look to find other areas that could make use of an expanded spectrum. "We recognise that this approach also has wider applicability to other sectors and would welcome stakeholder views on other service types where spectrum sharing could potentially deliver significant benefits to citizens and consumers," Ofcom said.
Last week, the European Commission recommended that the 5GHz spectrum is expanded globally to ensure users were getting the best connections possible as demand grows.
EC vice president Neelie Kroes said: "Systems where you share your WiFi network with others are a great example of how we can crowdsource a better internet for everyone. Everyone in Europe should be able to benefit from internet when they are away from home and work."
While expanding the WiFi spectrum should make a difference to consumers, both the EC and Ofcom will be taking great care to ensure that the change will not affect pre-existing users of the spectrum, which currently includes military radar and Earth exploration satellite services.
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