Additional unlicensed spectrum needed to deliver future Wi-Fi® connectivity

Demand for Wi-Fi will exceed available unlicensed spectrum capacity

Austin, TX – February 27, 2017 – The increasing number of Wi-Fi® devices combined with growing demand for Wi-Fi connectivity are projected to exceed the existing available Wi-Fi spectrum capacity in the near future. Recognizing Wi-Fi as a critical piece of the global telecommunications infrastructure, Wi-Fi Alliance® commissioned the  Wi-Fi Spectrum Needs Study to assess whether available spectrum resources will be sufficient to support Wi-Fi connectivity in the future. The study indicates that by 2020, Wi-Fi networks around the world will need access to significantly more mid-band spectrum than is currently available in the 5 GHz range to satisfy expected growth in Wi-Fi data traffic.

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. 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.

“Over the years, the Wi-Fi industry has developed innovative solutions to overcome bandwidth limitations and regulatory constraints to deliver wireless connectivity to billions of users,” said Alex Roytblat, Senior Director of Worldwide Regulatory Affairs at Wi-Fi Alliance. “As demonstrated by the Spectrum Needs Study, we have now reached the point where, simply put, more unlicensed spectrum needs to be available… and soon.”

Nearly two decades ago when Wi-Fi was a nascent technology, a limited amount of mid-band spectrum was made available for unlicensed use. Now, more than eight billion Wi-Fi devices are in use around the world, and that number is expected to reach nearly 12 billion by 2020. Users have come to rely on Wi-Fi  as the primary means for internet access, in part because it is often their most affordable option and in part because Wi-Fi offers performance that is well suited for current and emerging applications.

“Every day users rely on Wi-Fi to make their lives better. People use Wi-Fi to connect with one another, to learn, to work, and even to manage a range of autonomous smart devices” said Edgar Figueroa, president and CEO of Wi-Fi Alliance. “The exponential increase in reliance on Wi-Fi warrants additional spectrum allocation to meet Wi-Fi users’ needs for years to come.”

To access the full study, please visit: 

About Wi-Fi Alliance®
Wi-Fi Alliance® is the worldwide network of companies that brings you Wi-Fi®. Members of our collaboration forum come together from across the Wi-Fi ecosystem with the shared vision to connect everyone and everything, everywhere, while providing the best possible user experience. Since 2000, Wi-Fi Alliance has  certified more than 30,000 Wi-Fi products. The Wi-Fi CERTIFIED™ seal of approval designates products with proven interoperability, backward compatibility, and the highest industry-standard security protections in place. Today, Wi-Fi carries more than half of the internet’s traffic in an ever-expanding variety of applications. Wi-Fi Alliance continues to drive the adoption and evolution of Wi-Fi, which billions of people rely on every day.



Stephanie Burke
Highwire PR for Wi-Fi Alliance
Email Contact
+1-646-838-1190 ext. 48

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