Contrary to common perception, the rules that govern use of the Wi-Fi bands are constantly being changed, be it the FCC, ETSI, or innumerable other regulatory authorities around the world. Changes can range from relatively benign alterations to spectrum sharing rules to fundamental changes in allowed channels and power settings.

Why you should care

With regulatory changes, come implications for your network, some positive, some negative. A deployment that was making the best use of available power and channels today may become sub-optimal after a series of regulatory changes. Stricter band edge requirements could force a lower power setting for edge channels (such as Channel 1 in 2.4GHz band). A few years ago the FCC blocked the weather radar channels, effectively negating the use of channels 120 – 128 in the 5GHz band. New spectrum can be opened up, allowing channels that were previously blocked to become available. Currently the FCC is discussing a wide ranging series of changes to the 5GHz band that could see the re-introduction of these weather radar channels as well as allowing the use of UNII 1 outdoors.

Some changes are more nuanced in their impact. Changes to the radar detection signatures and rules by both ETSI and the FCC require updated equipment that can meet these new detection limits. Older supplier equipment could be forced end of life, and existing deployments may behave in a different manner once they are upgraded to handle the new detections.

It’s important to read the release notes from your equipment manufacturer to understand what regulatory changes may be incorporated in updated firmware. Additionally keeping track of what the primary regulatory bodies in your countries of interest are doing can help you prepare for changes before they occur. In cases where new channels or power settings have become available, there’s no reason not to take advantage.