POTRAZ Consulting Public On How They Can Improve Internet Connection In Rural Areas

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Base stations

POTRAZ has put out a notice in newspapers consulting the general public and interested parties on a proposed light licensing of rural broadband fixed wireless access systems.

The notice reads:

The Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (POTRAZ) intends to make the frequency bands 2400- 2483 MHz and 5 725-5 875 MHz available for the implementation of rural Broadband Fixed Wireless Access (BFWA) systems in farming and rural areas of Zimbabwe.

Additionally, POTRAZ intends to make the frequency band 5 725-5 875 MHz available for Short Range Devices (SRDs) and low-power BFWA systems, on a licence exempt basis in both urban and rural areas of Zimbabwe, as is the case for frequency bands 2400 – 2483MHz, 5.15 – 5.35 GHz and 5.470 –5.725 GHz.

The objectives of the proposed regulatory change are as follows:

  1. to enhance broadband connectivity in rural Zimbabwe, particularly in schools, hospitals, police stations and rural amenity intuitions.
  2. to extend the reach of broadband services in both urban and rural areas of Zimbabwe.
  3. to enhance ICT-centric innovation in Zimbabwe.
  4. to connect the unconnected.

An underlying principle of the proposed licensing regime is that primary services to which the bands are allocated in the Zimbabwe National Frequency Allocation Plan (ZNFAP) would and shall always be protected.

Establishment, ownership and operation of rural BFWA systems would be authorised through Public Network Operator Licences OR through light-licences issued by POTRAZ.

Individual citizens, corporates, private and public institutions are invited to download the consultation paper on the POTRAZ website which is www.potraz.gov.zw

What is this light licencing they speak of?

A Light-licence is an authorisation upon which users of a frequency band operating under simplified regulatory conditions compared to those applicable to conventional licences. It leads to registrations of stations under significantly reduced fees coupled with simplified operating conditions.

In light licensing the role of the regulator is reduced by transferring the responsibility for frequency planning and interference analysis to the license applicant. This way faster, cheaper and more efficient licensing procedure is established, thus enabling more flexible access to the RF (Radiofrequency) spectrum. This new approach has been widely implemented over the world for frequency bands with low risk of interference.

And BFWA??

One can see how on the surface, such a licence would be popular for rural areas where telecoms players don’t want to spend bucket loads of money that increase the time it takes for them to get their return on investment.

BFWA uses radio signal rather than fixed lines to deliver internet access and it’s lauded for its ability to reach consumers in hard to reach areas. The use of these networks also makes it possible to build mesh networks; which means as long as one base station has access it can beam to the other towers in the network.

This seems like a good idea but the whole purpose of having a consultation is for the public and interested stakeholders to raise whatever concerns they may have with the introduction of this light licensing scheme, particularly with the 2.4GHz & 5.8GHz bands. You can download POTRAZ’s consultation paper here and also contribute to the discussion.

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