Wireless Without Licence

By Craig Liddell

September 23, 2002

Australia's Wireless hotspot providers won't be required to obtain a carrier's licence to operate.

Australia's Wireless hotspot providers won't be required to obtain a carrier's licence to operate.

Companies such as SkyNetGlobal, Xone and Azure Wireless are breathing a collective sigh of relief following a decision by the Federal Government. The Minister for Communications has announced a ministerial determination that exempts hotspot providers from undertaking the costly process of obtaining a telecommunication carriers licence to operate.

Senator Richard Alston told the 802.11 Planet Conference "he signed the determination to make the carrier licensing obligations of the Telecommunications Act 1997 operate in a technologically neutral manner."

Prior to the announcement, the use of wireless equipment in hotspots and Internet cafes was unclear. Companies could have been subject to licensing obligations, costing $10 000 in application fees and an annual percentage of service revenue.

"By treating wireless technologies similarly to cable-based networks," Senator Alston said, "businesses using wireless technologies will not be unfairly disadvantaged by the carrier licensing obligations. This will encourage new players to enter the market and develop innovative technologies that will boost the Australian ICT sector."

"The Government recognises that wireless technologies offer significant benefits for consumers," he added, "with the potential to become a significant alternative broadband access technology in Australia."

Earlier this year, Senator Alston announced an inquiry into wireless broadband, which is near completion. The inquiry considered the benefits and limitations of wireless broadband and the impact on the telecommunications regulatory regime.

The ministerial declaration may also have impacts for regional areas. Senator Alston said the outcomes of the inquiry may spark widespread reform and "the Government was willing to look at extending the exemption to regional ISPs."

Telecommunications analyst, Paul Budde, has previously described the inquiry as "nothing more than a smoke-screen, to divert attention from Telstra and its broadband network." He believes 802.11 is a "great technology for its niche market (business travellers) but is absolutely unsuited to large-scale and high-density services. All wireless broadband technologies together including satellite will never capture more than 20%, perhaps 30% of the total market."

Reprinted from australia.internet.com.

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