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3G networks appeal for power boost

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Ofcom is considering allowing UK's mobile operators to quadruple the power of their 3G transmissions, to improve coverage and maybe roast a few more brain cells.

The request came from Vodafone, but when Ofcom consulted the other operators they all wanted in, so now the regulator has published a consultation (pdf) with plans to increase the permitted broadcast power almost four times (from 62 to 68 on the logarithmic dBm scale).

That's more than Vodafone, or anyone else, has asked for - existing kit can only kick out around 65dBm. But Ofcom doesn't want to be back here in a year when new kit comes out, so proposes setting the level higher. The regulator also notes that in some countries; notably Finland, Sweden, Germany and France, there are no limits at all, yet everyone seems to survive OK.

The main problem with upping the power is interfering with the neighbours, as some signal bleeding is inevitable. For 3G this means wireless cameras used by the Program Making & Special Events (PMSE) crowd on one side, and the Complementary Ground Component needed for satellite broadcast of mobile TV services on the other.

Given that there aren't any mobile satellite TV services yet, Ofcom deals with that by agreeing that, should anyone decide to build a mobile satellite broadcasting network, they too will be allowed to broadcast at 68dBm.

The PMSE crowd are used to getting a kicking from Ofcom, and this time the regulator reckons wireless cameras already suffer so much interference from 3G that this won't make much of a difference - noting that professionals already have to avoid specific bands when near a base station, so they'll just have to do the same from a little further away once the increased power is permitted.

Ofcom points out that technology has improved since the 3G licences were flogged off, enabling higher-power transmission without greater interference leaking into neighbouring bands. Indeed, the regulator makes the point that limits on out-of-band signals aren't being changed, and increasing the power will certainly enhance in-building penetration.

The decision hasn't yet been made though, and Ofcom is inviting responses, from "stakeholders", until the 19th of March. ®

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