Open Spectrum International Supports TRASA's Draft Wireless Policy for Southern Africa
(Open Spectrum International) --
10 January 2005 - Open Spectrum International today submitted comments to the Telecommunications Regulatory Association of Southern Africa (TRASA) in support of their draft "Guidelines on Wireless Technologies Policy and Regulation."
The Guidelines are an attempt to harmonize the regulatory policies of TRASA's 14 member countries in order to "extract the maximum economic and social benefits from the use of wireless technologies." The technologies at the focus of the Guidelines are small VSAT satellite stations and terrestrial wireless data networks based on the IEEE 802.11 family of standards (including "Wi-fi"). Because VSATs provide international connectivity while Wi-fi is a "last mile" solution, these are complementary technologies. Together they enable the quick expansion of low-cost wireless access to the Internet, which TRASA sees as essential for improving the quality of life in Southern Africa.
TRASA's members are Angola, Botswana, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Lesotho, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Republic of South Africa, Seychelles, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe. These countries currently have very different policies for regulating VSATs and Wi-fi. If the draft Guidelines represent a new policy consensus, they may foreshadow a dramatic shift toward less restrictive rules throughout the region. But for some of the countries, the changes proposed are so large that TRASA's Guidelines might not be implemented anytime soon - unless, of course, the public demands it. Although it can apply peer pressure, TRASA cannot force its members to accept its recommendations.
The Wireless Guidelines are being drafted by TRASA's Subcommittee on Wireless Regulation. Although the final version may differ from the current draft, Open Spectrum International cites the following paragraph from page 57 as an example of the Guideline's progressive thinking:
"Traditional means of managing spectrum policy have resulted in large portions of the spectrum being reserved exclusively for licensed users of a specific radio technology. This has created scarcity of the spectrum. By allowing more unlicensed use and more flexibility within licensed use of the spectrum adminstrations can improve innovations and access to wireless technologies. In recent years, the definitions of unlicensed spectrum have normalized around two major sets of frequencies at 2.4 GHz and 5.8 GHz. Most countries have regulations supporting license-exempt bands and some countries have regulations that now support the commercial use of license
exempt spectrum. A few countries impose license fees on individual equipment for hotspots and access devices. In general it is widely considered that unlicensed does not mean unregulated, and all manner of operators providing wireless services still need to maintain a no-interference working plan and a 'good neighbourhood' attitude."
Financial Times reporter Frances Williams reported last month that "Over 50 countries have allocated wireless spectrum for unlicensed use and others are considering it." The main point of Open Spectrum International's comments to TRASA was: "We hope the TRASA countries which have not yet approved
license-exempt bands will do so in response to your Guidelines." The full text of OSIntl's comments is attached.
TRASA aims to "co-ordinate regulatory matters and to exchange ideas, views and experiences on all aspects of regulation of the telecommunications sector throughout the Southern Africa region; to promote the establishment and operation of efficient, adequate, and cost-effective telecommunications networks and services in the Southern Africa region which meet the diverse needs of customers while being economically sustainable; to facilitate a uniform level of understanding of regulatory matters' and to maximise the utilisation of scarce resources in specialist areas of telecommunications."
TRASA's Secretariat is in Gabarone, Botswana (http://www.trasa.org.bw/ - tel +267 395-775, fax +267 318-1171, email email@example.com).
Open Spectrum International is a global policy advocacy project launched last summer by Czech civic association "Mista v Srdce." Its goal is to increase license-exempt access to the radio spectrum. Its purpose is to facilitate technological innovation, promote more efficient use of public resources, enhance freedom of expression and accelerate economic development, particularly in developing countries.
OSInternational's secretariat is in Prague, Czech Republic. An extensive set of resources for regulators, journalists and the public can be found at:
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Source: Open Spectrum International