Ireland’s regulation of broadband wireless access

Ireland contributed several principles to the 2005 GSR Best Practice Guidelines on Spectrum Management to Promote Broadband Access. Here are excerpts, discussed as Principle Two and Principle Three.

Principle Two: Balancing the use of licensed and licence-exempt spectrum.

A number of local initiatives have begun to provide broadband access using licence-exempt spectrum. In Ireland, from July 2002, wideband data transmission systems for the provision of fixed wireless access networks/metropolitan area networks (FWA/MAN) have been permitted in the 5.8 GHz (5725 – 5875 MHz) band on a licence-exempt basis, provided that the maximum radiated power does not exceed 2W eirp. This higher power level, over and above the current European harmonized standard, has increased the coverage achievable and hence the utility of the 5.8 GHz band.

This initiative provided some impetus for small market players to enter the market at very low cost, to gain some experience of broadband provision and to test-market demand for various broadband services. A number of successful operations using the licence-exempt spectrum, having proved their business case, have now moved to licensed spectrum. Regulator ComReg has committed itself to continue to identify appropriate spectrum allocations, both licensed and licence-exempt, for Wireless Access Services that are supported by choice and availability of equipment.

In Ireland, Short Range Devices (SRDs) are licence exempt subject to meeting certain technical criteria, e.g., maximum power levels and reference standards.

SRDs are uni-directional (one-way) and bi-directional (two-way) low power radio transmitters that serve a multitude of purposes such as: car door openers, baby alarms, wireless microphones and wireless local area networks (WLANs).

Ultra-wideband (UWB) technology that falls within EC technical parameters are being added to the list of licence-exempt devices in Ireland.  UWB is typically characterized by very low power radiation over a very large radio bandwidth and may provide a host of communications, measurement, location, medical, surveillance and imaging applications.

Ireland is currently operating a National Broadband Scheme (NBS) to reach economically unviable regions. To this end, the regulator set aside 10 MHz of spectrum in the 3.5 GHz band that requires the winner of its tender to use in NBS-identified regions.

As of May 2007, Ireland also allows existing wireless broadband providers to increase their service area to 20km (from 15km) in each fixed wireless area frequency band.

Principle Three: Access to cost effective backhaul infrastructure.

Just as consumers in semi-rural or rural areas may not have access to ADSL, the providers of wireless broadband are hampered by the lack of cost-effective backhaul infra structure, e.g., fibre. The alternatives such as satellite or point-to-point wireless fixed links are significantly more expensive compared to the costs of providing a wireless base station for broadband access.

In Ireland, consideration is being given to permitting the use of point-to-point links within the broadband access spectrum to provide a cost effective backhaul operation. While this is difficult to accomplish from a spectrum management viewpoint, it is seen as a viable alternative to the traditional and more expensive alternatives.

Sources: Ireland’s contribution to the 2005 GSR Best Practice Guidelines. Republished from Trends in Telecommunications Reform 2006: Regulating in the broadband world, ITU, 2006, http://www.comreg.ie/_fileupload/publications/ComReg0820.pdf; http://www.comreg.ie/_fileupload/publications/ComReg0729.pdf

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