Intel deal clears fast Wi-Fi for UK sale

A deal with the Radiocommunications Agency will allow Intel to sell its 802.11a fast wireless LAN equipment in the UK before the end of July

An agreement between Intel and the UK's spectrum authority should see faster wireless LAN technology on sale in the UK by this summer -- even before it has full European approval. Users will be limited to four base stations in a given area, but this is not considered a serious drawback. Although 802.11a wireless LANs are already on sale in the US, they were not expected to be available anywhere in Europe until the end of the year, because they do not have approval from the regulator, ETSI. 802.11a operates at up to 54 megabits per second (mbps) and uses unlicensed spectrum in the 5GHz range, while the current 802.11b LANs, which give 11mbps throughput, use the 2.4GHz spectrum. European approval of 802.11a is being delayed by the fact that military and satellite networks also use spectrum in the 5GHz range. Intel's agreement with the UK regulator, the Radiocommunications Agency, sidesteps this problem by limiting users to undisputed parts of the 5GHz spectrum. A similar agreement will allow users in the Netherlands to buy systems there too. "It is an in-country agreement," said Intel's David Bradshaw, adding that the RA has agreed that Intel can ship 802.11a WLANs if they only use spectrum in the 5.15GHz to 5.25GHz range. Satellite and radar signalling is between 5.25 and 5.35GHz, explained Bradshaw. UK users will buy exactly the same version of the product that is for sale in the US, but the box will carry a sticker and contain prominent instructions for the user to select four legal bands during set-up, explained Bradshaw. "The user already has to select bands during set-up -- this will be no more complicated," he said. If the product were fully licensed, then eight bands would be available. "In the UK, users will have a maximum of four 802.11a access points in a given area, while the fully licensed product allows users in the US to have up to eight," he explained. Nevertheless, four access points compares well with the three access points that current 802.11b networks allow, he pointed out. There is no shipping date for the product, but it will definitely arrive between April and the end of July in both the UK and the Netherlands -- whose authority, the RDR, has reached a similar agreement -- said Bradshaw. Sweden, Germany, Belgium and others will follow fairly quickly. The most difficult cases, including France, will be able to buy 802.11a by the end of the year, when ETSI approval is expected. By this stage, Intel's 802.11a WLAN will have the ETSI-required feature, DFS (dynamic frequency spectrum) built in. It already has TPC (transmission power control). 802.11a with DFS and TPC added was at one stage referred to as "802.11h" -- but it seems clear that this will simply be referred to as 802.11a, as worldwide products include the additions required by ETSI.

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