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3G at 2G frequencies edges closer in UK

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Ofcom has laid out the legal changes that will permit 3G technology at 2G frequencies, along with allowing radar-equipped level crossings, and radio for scuba divers, all by November.

The changes come as part of a general tidying up of legislation that clarifies licence-free deployments of radar at level crossings, and two-way satellite services for domestic broadband, as well as permitting those under water to broadcast at higher power and officially allow in-air Wi-Fi.

The regulator issued a consultation in March, and there haven't been a lot of changes since then despite robust responses from the Radio Society of Great Britain and concerned individuals.

The problem is that most of the legislation is EU-mandated, so Ofcom is just fitting it into UK law. The removal of technical restrictions on the 2G frequencies is a case in point – the debates happened at EU level, Ofcom is just filling out the paper work.

But in other cases Ofcom has been busy – rejecting a proposal from satellite operators that permissible transmission power be increased to 60dBW, rather than the 55dBW proposed. Much is expected of HDFSS (High-Density Fixed Satellite Systems – satellite broadband for the masses) but the regulator points out that allowing transmissions at 60dBW would require an exclusion zone around airports which would be hard to enforce.

Standing up to the RSGB is less impressive – Ofcom does that all the time, on this occasion deciding that manufacturers of underwater radio kit will bear responsibility for ensuring it automatically switches off when on the surface, allowing transmission at higher power when submerged in all that radio-absorbing water.

But less controversial is the decision to allow National Rail to deploy radar at level crossings, and to permit the use of Wi-Fi (at both 2.4GHz and 5.8GHz) on aeroplanes, though the rules now clarify that neither frequency is to be used for air-to-ground communication.

The proposals (pdf), which are still officially a "consultation" but should pass into law come November, also include some discussion about Complementary Ground Components (ground-based in-fill for satellite services) – which most countries hand out free with a satellite licence, but Ofcom has proposed billing for. Ofcom's approach is looking surprisingly sensible since LightSquared got off the ground, and the regulator sensibly postpones any decision on the matter. ®

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