Working under a cloud

CI Net deploys 5.8GHz in Newmarket

CI Net, the business ISP with a bent for wireless, is to extend its 5.8GHz wireless-broadband service into Newmarket in the new year. It will offer wireless connections, while paying the regulator only a quid per user for the licence.

The service, which offers speeds between two and 100Mb/sec, will be available to businesses within a 5km radius of their deployment - assuming they can get line of sight - and operates in the "lightly licensed" Band C chunk of 5.8GHz that runs between 5725-5850 MHz. That means CI Net only has to pay a quid for every piece of equipment it deploys. The company also has to register the location, but that hardly compares to the cost and rigmarole of a real licence.

It might seem odd to offer a commercial service on bandwidth that actually belongs to the Ministry of Defence and is also shared with low-power domestic video senders. The MoD however has never shown any great interest in using it and CI Net has never been refused a deployment despite sticking transceivers on the outside of its customers' buildings in Birmingham and Oxford, as well as all the temporary buildings at an extensive sports-related building site in London that the company isn't allowed to name.

Most people deploying in 5.8GHz are doing point-to-point connections: linking up two offices that happen to have line of sight, which minimises the chances of interference. But CI Net uses base stations with a 90 degree arc - placing up to four together to get full coverage, and sending/receiving data up to 4km - which dramatically increases the possibilities for interference generated, if not experienced, by CI Net customers.

Ofcom doesn't like to get involved when there are problems, but as yet that doesn't matter as those can be resolved with a phone call and some changing of channels. CI Net tells us that those calls are getting more common, particularly in London, but for the moment it's all friendly as there's plenty of space for everyone.

When it does get too crowded CI Net is ready to move on: company MD Graham Mclean admits that he "may have to buy a licence, or do a deal with someone who owns a licence" eventually, but until then 5.8GHz provides a useful stepping stone to build out the network, at only a quid a time. ®

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