Europe wants more spectrum to satisfy Wi-Fi hunger

UK eats most in EU Wi-Fi feast

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A report from the European Commission has called for more spectrum to be made available for Wi-Fi to take the strain off 3G and 4G networks.

It also shows that people around the EU are making increasing use of Wi-Fi, with those in the UK the hungriest for data traffic.

Titled Impact of traffic off-loading on spectrum demand, the report says that Wi-Fi and other small cell infrastructures provide backhaul outside of mobile networks, saving money for consumers and extending network coverage into hard to reach places.

It recommends making spectrum from 5150MHz to 5925MHz available globally for Wi-Fi, keeping the 2.6GHz and 3.5GHz bands for mobile use, and making it easier to deploy offload services such as Wi-Fi in public locations.

Win for all

European Commission Vice President Neelie Kroes said: "Wi-Fi is a huge success. It's a win for everybody involved. I will make sure the European Commission helps to spread use of Wi-Fi through extra spectrum and lighter regulation."

According to the research for the report, 71% of all EU wireless data traffic in 2012 used Wi-Fi, and the figure is forecast to rise to 78% by 2016. This is due largely to consumers taking advantage of the growth in the number of Wi-Fi hotspots.

The amount of data offloaded through Wi-Fi in the four largest markets – the UK, Germany, France and Italy – hit 200.8 petabytes per month in 2012 and is set to climb to 1,965.8 PB/month in 2016. The volume going through cellular traffic will increase at a slower but still impressive rate from 82.6 to 561.7 PB/month.

The UK accounted for the largest share for both technologies. For Wi-Fi it offloaded 85.8 PB/month in 2012 and is forecast to use 802.1 PB/ month in 2016, and for cellular the figures are 38.8 and 233.8 respectively.