BBC News Online carried the news on Monday 29th December that Ofcom has announced the licensing details for the 5.8GHz Band C spectrum. The new licences can be applied for from 5th January 2004, and are open to both ISPs and community groups. The licence cost is just £1 per connected user per year, with a £50/year minimum.
Earlier in 2003, the nationwide licences for the 3.8GHz band were auctioned, and these are now held by two companies who as yet have not launched any commercial services. The hope is that with the low cost for these 5.8GHz licences that community groups will be able to afford and make use of them. The 5.8GHz band is interesting in that it offers several advantages over standard 2.4GHz Wi-Fi, these are that the spectrum is licenced and therefore interference is controlled and the power allowed is higher making it easier to provide a commercial service. One downside is that the kit is not quite off the shelf, this needs to be sourced from suppliers like Alvarion, which may increase the hardware cost per end user. Some of the Alvarion 5.8Ghz kit also appears to allow for some degree of 'non line of sight' use, an interesting PDF covering this is here.
The main commercial interest at this time appears to be from BT, who are running trials in Ballingry in Fife, Scotland, Pwllheli in Wales, Porthleven in Cornwall and Campsie in Northern Ireland. The BT trials are based around a Point-to-multipoint topology, which means the antenna on a house needs to face towards the central mast. Hopefully we will see a lot more than just BT making use of this new opportunity.
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