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.
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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.