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Wireless power limit doubled to bridge digital divide

And UWB licences to be axed

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Ofcom has allowed fixed broadband internet providers to double the power of their signals in a move the UK telecoms regulator says will help bridge the digital divide.

The new rules apply to the 5.8GHz frequency, which is used by fixed WiMax radio technology for wireless internet connections. The frequency is subject to light regulation from Ofcom which allows the registration of terminals at its website.

The power of base stations in the spectrum is limited, though. They will now be able to increase the power they emit from two to four watts. This will extend the reach of each base station.

The regulator said in its announcement of the change that this will allow providers to extend the coverage areas and bridge the digital divide.

"Concern has been raised that a so-called digital divide exists in the availability of services, particularly broadband, in rural and urban areas in the UK," said an Ofcom statement. "Ofcom's Communications Market Report: Nations and Regions showed that the gap is closing and 41 per cent of adults in rural areas have broadband internet at home compared to 45 per cent of adults in urban areas. Changing regulation in this band, enabling greater geographical coverage, could help to increase access to wireless broadband in rural areas."

The decision is the result of a consultation into the rise in power limits.

Ofcom has also said it will soon change its regulations so that users of equipment that communicates via ultra wide band (UWB) technology will no longer need licences. The very short range systems are commonly used for video wireless or camera wireless systems.

The rule change will bring the UK into line with an EU Directive which demands that regulations be changed by 21 August.

"Globalisation of the marketplace and increased interest from businesses in the potential of UWB technology has led to a growing need for more international solutions which utilise spectrum in a harmonised manner for UWB technology," said Ofcom.

"UWB solutions now have the advanced technical characteristics necessary, for example, to allow for the co-location of multiple devices in a small area which is a requirement of the Short Range Device, consumer electronics, retail and logistics industries. Implementation of the Decision on UWB will go some way towards addressing these requirements and enable the benefits of this new technology to be realised."

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OUT-LAW.COM is part of international law firm Pinsent Masons.

Related links

The 5.8GHz announcement (pdf)
The UWB regulations proposal

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