Italians welcome WiMax sell-off

Italy will begin selling WiMax-capable frequencies next June

Italian politicians and businesses welcomed the announcement that the government would begin selling WiMax-capable frequencies next June, saying it was an important step toward the technological modernization of the country.

The government announced Wednesday that the defence and communications ministries had reached an agreement to free up radio frequencies in the 3.4 - 3.6 GHz wavebands for use in Wi-Max (Wordlwide Interoperability for Microwave Access) Internet services. The technology uses radio frequencies to beam data to laptops and mobile gadgets. Unlike existing technologies such as Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, it can send large quantities of data over relatively long distances.

The first licenses to use the frequencies, previously occupied by military radar systems, will go on sale in June, Italy's communications ministry said in a statement. "The Wi-Max service can now be created for a more rapid development and diffusion of broadband around the country, particularly in those areas where the creation of new infrastructure is most problematic," the statement said.

Regional Affairs Minister Linda Lanzillotta welcomed the news, saying in a statement that the technology would be particularly beneficial to isolated communities. Remote mountain communities in particular have suffered from the unwillingness of telecom providers to make the necessary investment to connect them to their ADSL (Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line) networks.

Internet Service Providers Tiscali SpA and Fastweb SpA both responded favorably to the announcement, noting that they had already successfully tested Wi-Max technology.

The communications ministry said the new technology would provide broadband wireless access at distances of tens of kilometres, as opposed to current Wi-Fi services which can only cope with distances of a few hundred meters. In ideal conditions the service could attain speeds of up to 74 Mbps, it said.

The exact details of the license sale have yet to be worked out and the Communications Authority has begun a process of public consultation, which is due to be concluded in February, a communications ministry spokeswoman said Friday.

Wi-Max licenses are being sold in other European countries such as France, Germany and Greece. The sale is not expected to produce more than Euro 200 million (AUD$335 million) for the government, analysts said. This is a far cry from the figures earned in the auctions of Europe's 3G cellular licenses.

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