The creation of a class licence for public wireless local area network services (WLANs) will make it easier for new service providers to set up WLANs. WLANs allow internet access in public places without having to plug into fixed lines. Some commentators have speculated that WLANs might pre-empt 3G mobile services. But this is unlikely, WLANs only cover hotspots and is a technology aimed at laptop computers rather than mobile phones. 3G and WLANs will therefore most likely happily co-exist.

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Any person who intends to operate a public WLAN service will only be required to register with the Office of the Telecommunications Authority (OFTA) before commencing operation. No application and processing procedures will be involved, and no licence fee will be levied.

A class licensee may use WLAN equipment which operates within the frequency bands of 2400 - 2483.5 MHz, 5150 - 5350 MHz and 5725 - 5850 MHz and meets the specific emission power level for each frequency band. Public WLAN services under the class licence include:

  • Facilitation of communications among persons within the radio coverage area of the WLAN; and
  • Provision of access to or resale of a public telecommunications service via the WLAN.

A class licensee is required to operate subject to certain conditions, these are intended to protect the interests of consumers and other parties. These conditions include:

  • operating, maintaining and providing services in a manner satisfactory to the OFTA;
  • avoiding interfering and obstructing other lawful telecommunications services;
  • ensuring metering equipment is accurate and reliable; and
  • not indulging in anti-competitive behaviour and running misleading advertisements.

The licensing requirements only apply to operators of public WLAN services, but not end users for private use.

The class licence will come into force shortly, but no date has been announced as yet.

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