The growing demand for Wi-Fi services in Europe is running the risk of surpassing bandwidth supply. Starting January 1, 2015, new, more rigorous CE mark requirements will apply to all Wi-Fi devices sold or used in Europe – including Bluetooth and Zigbee – that will make it easier for wireless technologies to co-exist.
The recent surge in the use of wideband technology has crowded the 2.4GHz frequency band. The new requirements are targeted at improving the efficient use of this band as well as the quality of data transmission within it, while also encouraging use of the relatively less-populated 5GHz band and improving adaptivity for the devices using it.
New Testing Standards
The new version of the EN 300 328 standard will affect testing for all wireless and Wi-Fi devices used in the European Union. Under the revision, wireless technology that was previously evaluated using V1.7.1 will be assessed using V1.8.1.
The new EN 300 328 V1.8.1 standard provides examples of test cases to guarantee the efficient use of the 2.4 GHz frequency band, including measurements for adaptivity, power spectral density and spurious emissions. The method for measuring output power, particularly as it relates to multi-channel systems, has also changed.
Products tested using V1.7.1, will have to be re-evaluated before the end of 2014. Manufacturers who fail to submit their products for testing (or retesting) will lose their CE mark and be blocked from selling their products in the European Economic Area.
Explosive Bandwidth Use Drives Need
Smartphone and tablet use continues to grow, with users tending to choose Wi-Fi when possible to save on cellular network costs. Even carriers prefer the public using Wi-Fi for so-called “offloading” so they can ease the strain on their own cellular networks.
This explosive use of the unlicensed 2.4 GHz band has caused increasing radio interference, and has led Europe to revise its ETSI EN 300 328 standard with the goal of improving service. Use scenarios have been modified, and special tests have been introduced to make it easier for technologies to coexist.
Improved Spectrum Sharing
By Jan. 1, 2015, all wireless equipment in the 2.4GHz band must be tested to the new V1.8.1standard. The goal is to improve the use and quality of data transmission within the 2.4GHz band, and to improve the adaptivity of devices using the 5GHz band.
The new EN 300 328 V1.8.1 standard will include implementation of a Medium Access Protocol, which will improve spectrum sharing with other devices in a wireless network. The V1.7.1 standard did not clearly define the mechanisms required to facilitate spectrum sharing.
Traditionally, the larger 5GHz band has been used by organizations such as the military; however, devices currently using the 802.11n or 802.11ac Wi-Fi standards in Europe could potentially adapt to use the 5GHz band instead of the 2.4GHz band.
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At present, 5GHz Wi-Fi is not commonly used outside of public networks; freeing up bits of the 5GHz band that aren’t currently available in Europe would have a minimal impact on existing users, and would ease bandwidth congestion.
Manufacturers, Labs Affected
Most Wi-Fi chip and module manufacturers, both domestic and off-shore, and integrators of these devices are not currently equipped to meet the demands of these new standards as the deadline approaches. Wireless modules that were tested and found to be compliant with V1.7.1 will need to be retested, because they will not be presumed to conform to the new standard. They must get started on this soon, because the legacy chipsets and modules are not likely to meet the new adaptivity requirements of V1.8.1 and many integrators will have to find new sources for their RF solutions. Test labs will also be affected by this update as the new requirements will require them to gear up for the new test requirements.
This need for retesting will undoubtedly cause some confusion and headaches for manufacturers and test labs, as they play catch-up. With the December 31, 2014 deadline looming, manufacturers and integrators must move quickly to retest existing products and possibly source new parts. Test labs must gear up quickly and get the new standard added to their laboratory accreditation in order to support the manufacturers.