Jidaw Systems

The ISM Frequency Band and Internet Service in Nigeria

Hello Everyone

Have you seen the latest NCC statement concerning the ISM frequency band currently in use by ISPs? As at Tuesday they released a statement contained in the Tuesday Guardian 25th of November 2003 on page 35 giving 31st of December as a deadline for the usage of the ISM band.

Their Grouse is that the frequencies are exclusively reserved for Industrial Scientific and medical purposes international standards and therefore ISPs in Nigeria must use other frequencies licensed by the NCC to distribute Internet Access.

Within limits of my knowledge and research I have discovered that most ISPs and Larger Networks in the USA and other Developed nations use the same ISM frequency for deploying access to their clients without having any problems with their regulatory body which is the FCC as shown below:

http://www.alvarion.com/Runtime/Solutions_10010.asp?fuf=41&type=item (USA)

http://www.shorecliffcommunications.com/magazine/news.asp?news=2334 (USA)

http://www.mirror.ac.uk/sites/live.locustworld.com/meshboxtechspec.pdf (UK)

http://www.fastlineinternet.com/faq.htm (USA)

http://www.onelasvegas.com/wireless/Asia_wireless_ISPs.html#JP (Japan)

Rather the FCC is more concerned with the EIRP (effective Isotropic radiated power) of these wireless equipment. For that reason the FCC in the United states mandated that no base station radio equipment should have a greater EIRP of more than 4 watts (36 dBm). In fact some base station radios are designed not to allow the insertion or connection of amplifiers into their line.

Already the Internet and ISP Business in Nigeria is suffering. Ours is the only field in Nigeria where despite the escalation in fuel prices, almost non existent power supply and other operational factors the public expects lower prices for our services. The results and outcome of forcing the ISPs in Nigeria is not even good to be imagined not to think of becoming a reality.

Those ISPs who have already purchased licensed frequencies in certain areas have discovered that it is impractical to deploy the technology without incurring heavy expenses because the products necessary to operate are not off the shelf but have to be designed to their specification. And at the end of the day the cost of all these will be pushed to the masses who hitherto have been enjoying the basic right of communication, but may be forced to give up that right if the prices are pushed up.

The NCC should be concerned with regulating the EIRP for the wireless ISPs in Nigeria because Wireless has proven to be the cheapest and most reliable means of deploying internet access in Nigeria. The same NCC is the body which gives out ISP licenses to operators but doesn't seem to realize the limitations which they face.

Also the controversial frequencies are not being utilised by any of these bodies for whom it is put aside. Even at that if the NCC had looked carefully it would have realized that the ISM and varies from country to country. In other words what is obtainable as ISM band in USA is actually different from what is used in Japan and the UK as well.

Obtaining E1 lines for deployment of dial up in itself is a herculean task and even when the lines and obtained what is the efficiency of this method of connection? Nitel frequently has outages due to power, switching malfunction or line fault. So they cannot be relied upon as a reliable means of deployment for ISPs to their various clients.

We can all remember days of endless queues in the few cyber cafes existing in the country then. With a phone line and an analog modem waiting forever for connection to server and when the connection does come it is capable only of speeds of between 16Kps and 64Kps (I personally have never seen it at 64Kps).

Wireless Equipment affords clients, whose demand has far outgrown the 64Kps speed offered by the Dial up modem, speeds of Up to 11Mbps.

I shudder to think of the economic effects when ISPs have to shut down and dismiss their staff because they cannot afford the millions required for obtaining the licensed frequencies

The advantages of the wireless ISPs cannot be exhausted and the reason to keep WISPs operational on the ISM band is obvious: Cheaper and more reliable distribution of Internet Services period. This what most ISPs aim for and I think the NCC too should be concerned with that, If smooth communication is upmost in their minds

Maybe we should have an ISP shutdown day to emphasize the importance of the ISPs in the country it worked in other places before(in Australia( www.ibiblio.org/pjones/ils310/msg00224.html) , it worked for the GSM operators, who knows it may work for ISPs too.

Please spread the message to other stakeholders in the industry.

Thank you for your time

Chineme Obuba MCP CCNA

Chineme Obuba is Head of Network Operations with Access Point Communication Limited, an ISP based in Umuahia, Abia State of Nigeria. He has knowledge and experience in Network Administration / Internet Service Provision. Drop him a line at: cobuba@jidaw.com

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