Telecoms watchdog says limiting BWA to fixed services may not be practical Providers of broadband wireless access (BWA) may be permitted to offer mobile applications sooner rather than later, as the industry regulator has conceded that reserving the spectrum solely for fixed services could prove impractical. The Office of the Telecommunications Authority, which is consulting the industry on the issue, had initially indicated it would permit only 'nomadic' services, with cellular-like hands-off devices guaranteeing connection between one area and another not allowed. But comments from Ofta assistant director Ha Yung-kuen yesterday suggested the regulator was reconsidering this view. 'In our initial consultation document, we proposed only allowing BWA to have limited mobility ... We would now need to consider whether this could actually be practically implemented,' Mr Ha said after briefing lawmakers on the progress of the BWA consultation, which ended yesterday. 'The delineation between nomadic service and fully mobile service is actually not clear.' It was the first admission by a senior Ofta official that differentiating between nomadic services - such as offering wireless connectivity to notebooks and personal digital assistants - and fully mobile services might be impractical in a small area like Hong Kong. Ofta has said the licences should not permit full mobility because the technology for mobile services is not yet ready. This is true for BWA technology such as WiMax, which is not expected to be fully mobile until 2007 at the earliest. But other proprietary technologies - such as the IPWireless equipment used by PCCW in Britain - is capable of cellular hands-off. Ofta maintains a neutral stance as operators choose which BWA technology to deploy. Industry watchers argue it does not make sense to limit BWA technology such as WiMax, which has a range of up to 50km, to nomadic services. Gartner analyst Robin Simpson said: 'I don't understand the reasoning behind Ofta limiting a mobile technology to fixed services. The whole value of BWA is mobility.' Mr Ha said 'the majority of the views received' in response to the consultation opposed limiting BWA licences to fixed applications. He added that the government was likely to invite bids for licences during the first quarter next year. By law, Ofta must now submit to the Legislative Council details on how many licences it plans to issue and how the auction should be conducted.