Government attacked over radio 'roadblock'

Government attacked over radio ‘roadblock’
Roy Rubenstein A leading industry figure has accused the government of stifling broadband radio research by failing to provide an unlicensed frequency band for system development. “It is putting a roadblock on technology development,” said Professor Andy Hopper, managing director of AT&T Laboratories Cambridge. Hopper contrasts the UK with development efforts in the US: “The 5GHz band in the US is specifically and deliberately unlicensed.” Its availability has resulted in considerable technological innovation, said Hopper, with numerous US start-ups developing broadband access technologies ranging from software-dominated radio technology and CDMA through to wireless Ethernet. “Not all the [US] start-ups will be successful but technology will be developed,” said Hopper, who is credited with three successful start-ups in Cambridge. The UK, in contrast, provides unlicensed radio space for system testing but not for its deployment. “The issue is you can’t make a business out of it. This worries me, it really does,” said Hopper. The Radiocommunications Agency of the Department of Trade and Industry admitted that it is looking at the US 5GHz unlicensed band with interest. However, it points to the sheer size of the US which aids such a development. “In the UK there are constraints including the need to co-ordinate [spectrum use] with other European countries,” said Julian MacKenney, head of the spectrum strategy unit. Europe has recommended a 150MHz deregulated band starting at 5.725GHz which MacKenney expects to be approved soon. However, while the band is “fairly broadband”, it is earmarked for low power devices – 0.25W compared to the US 5GHz band which allows up to 10W transmissions for ranges up to 10km.

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