Ofta takes unified stand on broadband wireless licences

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 23 July, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 23 July, 2005, 12:00am

The Office of the Telecommunications Authority (Ofta) plans to issue new 'unified carrier' licences to operators planning to offer broadband wireless access (BWA) services, a move observers say would allow fixed-line and mobile providers to compete equally.

Ofta had initially proposed issuing BWA licences only to fixed-line players, meaning mobile companies would have had to pay $1 million for a fixed-line licence to enter the wireless broadband sector.

Mobile-phone companies objected, saying Ofta's plan would give fixed-line carriers an advantage as fixed and mobile services are converging on wireless broadband technologies such as WiMAX.

The authority had planned to start consultations on unified licensing at the end of the year but will now proceed earlier so the permits can be issued before the BWA spectrum is allocated.

'Ofta now aims to launch a consultation on the unified licensing regulatory regime in the next two to three months,' a government source said.

Under a unified licensing system, all operators would be subject to the same regulations.

The distinction between fixed and mobile services is steadily disappearing. Last month, fixed-line operator PCCW acquired Sunday Communications with plans to offer fixed and mobile services via a single handset.

Wireless technologies such as WiMAX allow fixed-line and mobile operators to offer 'personal' broadband connections, with users accessing the internet anywhere, anytime through devices such as laptops, PDAs and mobile phones.

Ofta has said it would issue at least seven BWA licences, probably on the 3.5MHz band.

Separately, Ofta intends to appoint a consultant to study the connection fees fixed-line networks charge mobile operators.