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Ofcom consultation brings out the tinfoil hatters

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Quadrupling the transmission power of 3G networks will lead to famine, mass starvation and scurvy for all, not to mention annoying cameramen and the MoD, if the hysterical response to Ofcom's new proposals is to be believed.

The terrifying prospect of "a slow and painful death" is among the reasoned responses to Ofcom's proposal allowing mobile phone networks to increase the transmission power of their 3G networks to 68dBm (from 62dBm). This was requested by Vodafone, which argues that it would increase coverage and that technical improvements mean it could be done without annoying the neighbours. But the spectral neighbouring aren't convinced, while those physically neighbouring are up in arms.

Many countries don't limit transmission power at all, and Ofcom has previously stated it would like to see the UK moving to an interference model too. A Spectrum Usage Right would be sold, by Ofcom, and permit the owner to do anything in the band as long as they didn't exceed the permitted out-of-band interference. Transmission power is then limited by the accuracy of the transmitter and capability of associated filters which attempt to prevent out-of-band transmissions.

Ofcom reckons that those filters have improved markedly since the 3G licences were awarded, and thus the power can be increased without bothering anyone nearby - but the Ministry of Defence and PMSE (Program Making and Special Events) crowd beg to differ.

JFMG, the company that licences spectrum to the PMSE users, wants to see these improved filters in action, presenting a detailed argument that increased out-of-band signals could make wireless cameras impractical. The MoD, meanwhile, presents no arguments but simply states the same issue with the proposals.

Not short of arguments is Andrew Goldsworthy (BSc PhD), who reckons increasing the power will kill all the bees, resulting in famine and mass starvation along with outbreaks of scurvy causing us to "literally begin to fall apart". But at least Dr Goldsworthy presents an argument, albeit a fatally flawed one; most of the remaining responses fall into the "ITS KILLING ME" bucket, though we were impressed by Eve Pearson whose rant concludes that "These [increases] are NOT for us as we have a full signal now".

More measured arguments call for greater use of femtocells for in-building coverage, but most interesting is the response from 3UK who, alone among network operators, are against the increases.

3's argument is that increasing the transmission power will swamp their base stations with out-of-band interference from their competitors, a problem the other networks don't seem to think will bother them, perhaps because 3 often operates at a lower power by choice (cheaper kit, and greater capacity, can result from that decision, though more base stations or less coverage is also a consequence).

Even if one tunes out the extremists there's clearly an argument to answer. However, of the 56 responses received, only around ten actually contain reasoned arguments - the rest rely on unsubstantiated hearsay, capital letters and excessive use of exclamation marks to make their point. Vodafone might demonstrate improved filters that satisfy those respondents, but that's not going to mollify the other 46. ®

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