Ofcom mulls increasing WiFi power

The shape of things to come? U.K. telecommunication regulator Ofcom is mulling raising the power limits of WiFi, and the industry welcomes the idea. Hot zone operators, especially, see the contemplated change as giving a mighty boost to the businesses. Ofcom says its proposal was driven by the need to improve spectrum efficiency by broadening the range of devices operating in the spectrum, and by the need to make broadband more available in rural areas. The agency estimates that about 3 percent of the British population has no access to broadband. The reason: The cost of deploying broadband networks in sparsely populated areas.

The proposal involves the 2.4 GHz and 5.8 GHz bands.The latter is more problematic because the U.K. Ministry of Defense (MoD) uses most of it. Ofcom says that MoD has not objected to increasing power in the band to four watts, but such a small increase would not make a meaningful difference for businesses contemplating serving customers in rural areas. MoD is using the bottom two-thirds of the 2.4 GHz band, but even in the upper one-third portion it would be possible to increase power to 10 watts.

The enthusiasm of urban hot spot operators may be premature: Increasing power typically means increased interference. How do you make it more possible to roll out WiFi in rural areas without, at the same, degrading communication quality in urban areas? One idea Ofcom is considering: Allowing increased power to specifically designated rural villages and towns.

For more on Ofcom's proposal:
- take a look at Ofcom's Web site
-and David Meyer's ZDNet UK report

MORE: Bucking the trend: We reported that some coffee shops in Boston turn off their WiFi connections during peak hours in order to discourage table-hogs from coming into the shops for the purpose of using their WiFi service without ordering anything. Last year Glenn Fleishman reported that some coffee shops in Seattle were turning off their WiFi service on weekends for the same reason. Some business owners take exception: Tully's Coffee, which operates coffee shops in Seattle, will begin next Monday to offer free WiFi to customers in hope of attracting more business. Report

ALSO: Boston will turn to a non-profit organization to run city-wide WiFi system. Report

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