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ISPs demand radio spectrum

Ofcom must provide proper support for wireless broadband through its upcoming spectrum review, say ISPs. Failure to do so could stymie WiMax
Written by Matt Loney, Contributor on

Ofcom must make radio spectrum available for ISPs when it publishes its review into spectrum management in July, industry association ISPA said on Tuesday.

The growth in wireless broadband means that many ISPs now use the radio spectrum to provide Internet access, said ISPA. The need for radio spectrum will be heightened as WiMax equipment becomes available this year, providing 20Mbps or more over tens of kilometres — much farther than telcos are able to do with ADSL.

ISPA said Ofcom should establish a dedicated range of radio frequencies for ISPs to offer broadband services.

Jessica Hendrie-Liaño, chair of ISPA council said, "It's a case of too many cooks at present. If ISPs were reserved specific frequencies for broadband and Internet access, problems of interference would be minimised. The current narrow spectrum is also used by the military and mobile phones. All parties would benefit from a dedicated spectrum of frequencies for ISPs."

In areas where the local loop has not been unbundled, and particularly in rural areas, wireless access to the Internet will be of great importance for users, said ISPA. BT — which is a member of ISPA — estimates that 99.6 percent of UK homes and businesses will be capable of being connected to a broadband-enabled exchange by June 2005. However this does not accurately reflect the geographical availability of broadband across the UK. With a dedicated range of radio frequencies for ISPs, the geographical areas not served by fixed line broadband could get a high speed Internet service over wireless, ISPA believes.

Although ISPA did not mention WiMax by name, it is this technology that the industry is counting on to provide wireless broadband to the places that wires cannot reach. It is also a technology that will be hamstrung in the UK unless Ofcom sorts out the spectrum, say its proponents.

WiMax could technically be deployed at any one of several frequencies around the world, including 2.5GHz, 3.5GHz and 5GHz. In Europe, 2.5GHz is earmarked as an expansion band for future 3G services, so European WiMax services aren't expected to operate at this frequency, while 5Ghz is already used for unlicensed Wi-Fi services running on the 802.11a standard.

There has also been speculation that WiMax could be offered in the UK at 3.4GHz, a frequency controlled by UK Broadband — a division of Pacific Century CyberWorks which won control of the spectrum in an auction in 2002.

Ofcom has said that its wants to open up more spectrum, so that market forces can determine the best way of using it.

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