ART publishes a summary of its public consultation

Paris, 4 April 2002

A review of the responses that were received for the public consultation on WLAN technology has been published today by the Autorité de régulation des télécommunications (ART). The consultation document was published in December 2001; responses were received until February 2002.

  • The goal of the public consultation
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ART's goal in holding the consultation was to examine the concerns raised by the provision of public telecommunications services using WLAN technologies which are currently available on the 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz bands, in particular Bluetooth, Home RF, Wi Fi (IEEE standard 802.11b), HipeWLAN 2, etc.

 

WLAN technology uses the 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz frequencies, which are not specifically assigned to their users and for which no fee is charged.

 

  • Review of current legislation
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The regulations implemented by ART reserve the use of WLANs to local networks (so-called independent networks) and to low-range, low-powered devices.

 

The maximum power authorised indoors is 10 mW for the entire 2.4 GHz band (2400 MHz- 2483.5 MHz), and 100 mW for frequencies ranging from 2446.5 MHz to 2483.5 MHz. Outdoor applications are very limited: on private property or the private property of public persons, the use of WLANs is subject to a prior authorisation procedure with the opinion of the Ministry of Defence, and maximum power of 100 mW in the 2446.5 – 2483.5 MHz band; the outdoor use of WLANs on public property is not permitted.

 

These constraints were defined in a special agreement signed on 11 January 2001 by the Ministry of Defence and ART regarding the introduction and development of low-powered devices in the 2400 – 2483.5 MHz band. According to the agreement, the indoor use of a power limited to 100 mW for the entire 2400 – 2483.5 MHz band and the outdoor use of 10 mW is scheduled for 2004.

 

In accordance with the decisions of the CEPT, the indoor use of frequencies in the 5150 MHz-5350 MHz band is authorised with a maximum power of 200 mW, and the outdoor use is forbidden. The 5470 MHz -5725 MHz band is not currently available.

  • A large number of comments describing the state of the art
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The consultation informed us of the current state of the industry. It also allowed us to identify the needs and the possible uses of WLANs and to examine the suitability of legislation in this area.

 

We received a large number of informative responses (73). They were equally distributed between representatives of the industry that are involved in WLAN technologies (telecoms operators, equipment manufacturers, consultants, integrators) and other players (individual users, associations, local communities, companies using the technology for their individual needs).

 

The replies reflected strong sector interest in this technology, following the marketing of relatively low-cost and easy-to-install products.

  • The contributions allowed us to determine a number of main topics
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    • A widely shared desire to be able to offer high-speed Internet access in "hot spots" such as train stations, airports, hotels, etc.
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    • Relatively generalized demand for more flexible conditions for outdoor use of these technologies, and a raising of the power limitations currently in force
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    • Requests for permission to use WLAN technologies to create infrastructures in isolated areas
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    • The need to protect the integrity of many authorised independent networks developing WLAN services in these frequencies
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    • A warning against the risk of distorting competition with existing networks or future UMTS networks

  • ART is initiating discussions on legislative and technical issues in order to make the regulation on WLAN networks more flexible
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ART is aware of the potential of these technologies as a vector for high-speed access to Internet, and does not underestime the leveraging effect they may have on local loop traffic.

 

It noted that this technology is meant to offer Internet access (connecting radio relays to networks), more naturally in a complementary way than as a direct competitor to local loop technologies. Thus, ART has already initiated in-depth discussions on legislative and technical aspects in order to relax the current system, and will soon be in touch with its usual institutional contacts (Armed Forces, National Frequency Agency) to work in this direction.

 

ART reminds interested parties that these bands are currently shared, and that constraints can only be relaxed with the approval of the Armed Forces.