Europe’s leading telecom operators are relying heavily on Wi-Fi to bring sustainable high-speed connectivity to their customers.  That is evident in recent announcements by two of the biggest players in the sector – Vodafone and Orange.

Vodafone UK has just launched its Ultra Hub and Super WiFi Booster, which uses Wi-Fi 6E (Wi-Fi in the 6 GHz frequency band) to enable customers to enjoy high-speed connectivity in their homes, while Orange France is asking customers to switch to Wi-Fi at home to save energy.

These moves underline the importance of making more spectrum licence-exempt, both to alleviate congestion and to enable Europeans to benefit fully from the major performance advances made possible by Wi-Fi 6E. In particular, European governments need to make the full 6 GHz band (5925-7125 MHz) licence-exempt, as Brazil, Canada, South Korea, the US and other countries have done.

Without sufficient spectrum for Wi-Fi, consumers and companies won’t be able to take full advantage of fibre-to-the-premises connections. Vodafone UK says the combination of its full fibre footprint (covering nine million homes) and Wi-Fi 6E will enable customers to enjoy average download speeds of 910 Mbps (if they sign up to the right tariff plan). “Incorporating the latest Wi-Fi 6E technology, customers will see a step change in performance, with faster speeds, lower latency and improved reliability,” says Kester Mann, Director of Consumer and Connectivity at CCS Insight, in Vodafone’s press release.

Wi-Fi 6E equipment is already widely available: Vodafone UK noted that more than 150 devices can be connected to its new hub. And it is guaranteeing Wi-Fi coverage throughout the home, or customers can leave their contract for free.

Wi-Fi is the energy efficient option

Wi-Fi is, by far, the best way to provide indoor connectivity. To penetrate building walls, 5G services need to consume high levels of power. As a result, connecting an indoor device to an outdoor base station will use a disproportionate amount of energy, while also resulting in shorter recharge cycles, increased battery wear, and additional electronic waste.

Indeed, the French regulator ARCEP has stated that the combination of fibre and Wi-Fi is the most efficient solution in terms of energy consumption, performance, and flexibility. Energy efficiency is particularly important in light of the energy crisis caused by the conflict in Ukraine, while also helping governments to achieve their sustainability targets. Employing Wi-Fi, rather than IMT, in the 6 GHz band will require less power, helping Europe to make better use of scarce energy resources.

That’s why Wi-Fi gets a shout out in Orange France’s energy saving plan for the forthcoming winter. During periods of peak consumption, Orange says it will send SMS messages to employees and customers “to raise awareness of environmentally-friendly actions, like switching off their boxes when not in use; switching to Wi-Fi at home, or enabling standby mode for their Livebox and TV set-top box.” Orange France began offering Wi-Fi 6E set top boxes, capable of supporting speeds of up to 2 Gbps, to customers in April this year.

In short, Wi-Fi can save households energy and money, while still delivering very fast connectivity throughout the home.