ACA rules on WLANs licensing

Telecommunications regulator the Australian Communications Authority has released an information package on licensing wireless local area networks (WLANs) to help organisations determine whether they need a carrier licence.

The release of the guide follows a decision this month by the Minister for Communications, IT and the Arts, Senator Richard Alston, which makes it possible for a WLAN to operate in a single space, the ACA said.

The exemption only applies to WLAN operators at a single premise like an Internet cafe, airport lounge or shopping centre, whereby the operator does not have to be licensed as a carrier under the Telecommunications Act 1997, according to ACA chairman Tony Shaw.

"Installation of WLAN technology on a single premise would be treated in the same way as cable-based networks, and will not be disadvantaged under carrier licensing," Shaw said.

He said where WLANs operate solely on a non-commercial basis a carrier licence may not be required. However, each case needed to be assessed individually.

But if organisations provided carriage services beyond a single space and to the public commercially, carrier licensing requirements still applied, Shaw said.

He added that network unit owners used to providing telecommunications services using WLANs need to comply with both the Telecommunications Act and the Radiocommunications Act.

Any breaches of licensing obligations under both Acts would result in significant penalties, Shaw said.

Offering a series of questions and answers, the ACA's WLAN information guide provides a series of questions and answers to help WLAN operators understand the new arrangements. Specifically, the information covers both telecommunications and radiocommunications licensing, and on network bands and equipment standards for WLANs.

Meanwhile, the House of Representatives Standing Comittee on Communications, IT and the Arts is holding an inquiry into wireless broadband technologies to decide whether to regulate WLANs and other "innovative" technologies. The committee will report on the inquiry later this year.

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