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The government yesterday duly amended the Wireless Telegraphy Act, opening to flood-gates to commercial providers of public WLAN services on the 2.4GHz spectrum.

This is where the Wi-Fi 802.11b standard hangs out. And where to date, short range devices such as baby alarms and radio control toys operate.

Previously, public WLANs in the UK could only be set up and used if no money changed hands, and operators were supposed to obtain a Wireless Telegraphy Act licence. Operators will still need a Telecommunications Act licence. But that's no problem - anyone is automatically entitled to operate under a "class licence" known as the Telecommunications Services Licence (TSL) - without having to make any application, or even notifying Oftel, Mike Conradi, a lawyer specialising in telecoms and IT at Baker & McKenzie, points out.

"The conditions of the TSL allow a full commercial service to be provided (though they do not allow the resale of international voice calls). So there
will no longer be any regulatory obstacle to the provision of W-LANs," he says.

The rule change takes place on July 31.

In April BT jumped the gun by revealing plans to set up 400 mobile internet hot spots across the UK by June 2003. Why gun-jumping? Well, the new regime, although widely expected, had not been announced. BT's premature disclosure is said to have irritated regulatory body the RadioCommunications Agency, according to this article. ®

Government press release

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