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Alarm bells ring over UK Wi-Fi plans

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A fortnight ago The Department of Trade and Industry announced the opening up of the 2,4GHz radio spectrum, paving the way for commercial Wireless LAN services, based around 802.11b, or Wi-Fi, in the UK for the first time.

The decision was widely anticipated, especially after BT effectively leaked the decision by announcing its intention to build a whopping great UK network of 400 wireless hotspots.

The computer industry is happy - more kit to flog, and the mobile warrior is happy - more places to work out.

But there have been some mutterings over congestion of the 2.4GHz spectrum. And now the Low Power Radio Association has come out against the DTI's plans.

Based in the UK, the LPRA represents 188 member companies across Europe, which makes the likes of burglar alarms, remote control and monitoring systems, RF tags. They work on the 2.4GHz spectrum and they are - obviously - low-power, short-range devices, meaning that they don't interfere with each other and accordingly are exempt from obligations to obtain radio licences.

Wi-Fi networks are not low-power, as Mike Brookes, chairman of the LPRA, says: "The concern is that equipment supplied by our members and installed throughout the country will suffer destructive interference as a result of this move.

@Much of the installed equipment is used in video and alarm installations, the loss of which may have serious consequences for its operators.”"

It's a bit late, the DTI after all did conduct a four-month consultation, or at least it said it did - this was always a foregone conclusion.

Of course Wi-Fi may, just may be a stepping stone to 802.11a networks, which operate at five times the speed. In the UK, the DTI has yet to approve services which run on the 5GHz spectrum. The most likely outcome is that 802.11b will continue to hog the 2.4Ghz airwaves, with services running alongside 802.11a. ®

Related stories

BT gets 802.11b rubber stamp
WLAN Hotspots warm up
BT to intro public 802.11 WLANs in UK

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