Government expands broadband plans

New frequencies will open the way for more broadband services over the airwaves

The government announces it is to extend the auction of fixed wireless Internet access in a bid to improve the choice of broadband services in the UK.

Two new radio frequencies -- 3.4GHz and 10GHz -- will be made available to supplement the existing 28GHz and 40GHz frequencies that are currently being auctioned off. The spectrum allocations for Fixed Wireless Access (FWA), will make it possible for broadband Internet exceeding the capacity of ADSL to be delivered to home and small business users without laying new high-capacity land lines.

While the higher frequencies -- which will provide many times the bandwidth of ADSL -- are targeted at large businesses, the 3.4GHz and 10GHz frequencies is aimed at home and small business users. It will be up to network operators, however, to decide what capacity is on offer to customers, which will depend largely on the cost of building and operating the infrastructure.

Nevertheless, the government believes that the availability of the new frequencies will boost broadband Internet in the UK. "This Government has set a target of making the UK the best place in the world to do business electronically. Rolling out Fixed Wireless Access services is vital to achieving this goal," says e-commerce minister Patricia Hewitt in a statement. "These two tranches of spectrum could complement the services offered by the 28GHz spectrum (Broadband Fixed Wireless Access), bringing these services to more of the UK, benefiting small businesses, homes and teleworkers."

The DTI's Radiocommunications Agency is currently assessing how viable these plans are and will submit its conclusions later this week. The frequencies are not due to be made available until next year.

Experts believe that the fixed wireless auctions will not raise the same high sums reached in the 3G auctions. Some experts regard fixed wireless access are a more viable alternative to ADSL.

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