An investigation of the use of wireless for last mile communications

19 May 2006

Purpose of the project

The purpose of this study is to investigate the use of wireless technology as an alternative for the provision of the last mile communications to the home. In particular, this might focus on technologies such as mesh in a mix of licensed and unlicensed bands.

Background

Achieving competition and ubiquitous access in the last-mile broadband connection to the home remains a challenge. Proposals based on microwave technology often suffer restricted coverage due to line-of-sight requirements. Unlicensed access at 2.4GHz can have too short a range or inadequate building penetration.

In response to the Spectrum Framework Review some suggested using some of the spectrum released by the digital switch-over in a licensed exempt mode for this application, potentially using mesh technology.

Ofcom sponsored two projects in 2005 to investigate the spectrum efficiency properties of mobile and fixed mesh networks (Spectrum Efficiency Scheme). While these had mixed results, it may be that there are particular benefits to be achieved in a last-mile situation.

Work items to be studied:

  • Understanding the requirements for last mile.
  • Implementation costs and coverage requirements for an economically viable system.
  • Estimate of economic benefits to the UK from making licensed or license-exempt spectrum available for this application.
  • Investigate market demand and assess time to market for equipment using mesh network technology and other appropriate technologies for last mile
  • Investigate last mile wireless solutions being proposed by regulators elsewhere in the world and discuss their suitability for the UK market.
  • Possibilities of allowing last mile application under licence exempt basis and the associated economic benefits of licensed versus licence exempt
  • Recommendation of suitable frequency bands and technical parameters
  • Should mesh network be considered as a specific licensed exempt application or is a generic regulation for licensed exempt application more appropriate?
  • Suitability for rural or urban areas.
  • Business and residential scenarios.
  • Possibilities/implications of using DSO spectrum for this purpose.

End date: December 2006