Faster Wi-Fi hot spots get green light

Wireless LANs based on 802.11a will be legal in three weeks, as the government reveals its plans to make 5GHz licence-exempt

The government has announced plans to deregulate the 5GHz band of the radiocommunications spectrum. Legislation to make 5GHz licence-exempt will be introduced in parliament on Tuesday, and will come into force three weeks later.

As ZDNet UK reported last week, the move will allow commercial network operators to run Wi-Fi hot spots based on 802.11a. The 802.11a standard is significantly faster than 802.11b, which existing hot spots are based on.

Individuals and organisations will also be able to run wireless local area networks using 802.11a.

According to the government, their decision to make 5GHz licence-exempt will help the growth of broadband in Britain.

"Opening up this radio spectrum will encourage telecoms operators to deliver new and innovative public services. It will offer the possibility of 'broadband on the go', with services based in public places," said e-commerce minister Stephen Timms in a statement on Tuesday.

"It is important that businesses are given the resources to create and deliver new ideas and technology to benefit the public. This will allow them to make the best use of limited spectrum and help deliver Broadband Britain," Timms added.

There may not be an immediate need for public WLANs running 802.11a, some experts have claimed, as the maximum surfing speeds available will be restricted by the speed of the connection from the hot spot to the Internet. If this is only a 4Mbps link, for example, there's little benefit in using 802.11a rather than 802.11b.

802.11a does have other advantages, though, such as less interference, better cooperation with Bluetooth and higher peer-to-peer speeds.

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