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Japan ponders Wi-Fi tax

If phone users have to pay for spectrum, why not you WLAN guys?

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Japan's Public Management, Home Affairs, Posts and Telecommunications Ministry is considering taxing Wi-Fi devices, sources within the government department have claimed.

Legislation to impose fees for making use of the 2.4GHz spectrum will be put before the Japanese parliament next year, the sources told The Japan Times this week.

It's viewed as impractical to seek payment from existing users, so the Ministry appears to be thinking of adding a the licence fee to the cost of new equipment.

The Ministry believes that since other wireless device manufacturers and, in turn, their users pay for spectrum licences, so should Wi-Fi equipment makers. What, it asks, is so special about the 2.4GHz band?

Well, for a start, few if any other bands are subject to interference from microwave ovens, so presumably the Ministry will also take those.

And Japan hasn't exactly gone Wi-Fi crazy in the way that other nations have. Japan's public hotspot infrastructure, for example, is less widespread than in the US or the UK. That's largely because Japanese consumers have been able to access the Internet at high speeds using their mobile phones. Japan has a mobile phone population of almost 82m people, around 16.5m of which provide high-speed Internet access.

That said, both the upcoming Nintendo DS and Sony PlayStation Portable will use Wi-Fi for Internet access, and Japanese consumer electronics companies are pushing WLAN technology as a way of connecting an array of entertainment systems within the home. ®

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