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Ofcom sets 60GHz free

No licence required, indoors or out

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UK regulator Ofcom has announced it will make 6.8GHz of spectrum - from 57GHz up - licence exempt for fixed-wireless links, unless you're too near the MoD.

The statement (pdf) follows a consultation on the subject which ran up until September, and generated a few responses that Ofcom has considered, and rejected. Anyone will be free to stick up a fixed wireless link in the open air, as long as they've got a 30dBi antenna connected to it.

The antenna requirement is about ensuring that connections are very directional, to minimise interference. Given the problems such high frequencies have getting through our oxygen-rich atmosphere, that's unlikely to be a problem anyway. Even at maximum power (10dBm), Ofcom reckons you'll be lucky to transmit over a kilometre before the oxygen adsorbs the signal.

It's that limited range which makes Ofcom so keen to hand over the spectrum for free. Ofcom's mandate is to ensure maximum use of the airwaves, which it usually does by selling them to the highest bidder, but the regulator reckons that the limited range at 60GHz means no individual licensee would be able to deploy in sufficient density to make maximum use of the potential, so removing the licence requirements fits its mandate.

That limited range also limits interference, though Intelligent Transport Systems UK and BAE Systems reckon that Ofcom should have reserved 63-64GHz for smart vehicles, with the latter arguing that the EU has mandated such use. Ofcom reckons the EU ruling only means that intelligent transport should be allowed to use the spectrum, not that it should have exclusive use.

There are three places where the Ministry Of Defence insists no-one uses the spectrum within 6km - South Uist and the south-western tip of Wales are hardly hot-spots for wireless connections, but anyone planning a radio link across RAF North Luffenham might want to take note.

They'll have to be another consultation before the required changes can be made to the regulations, but by next summer we should have licence-exempt access to the whole band. ®

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