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WISPA it quietly

Friday, 13 October 2023

R100 team members, Andy Lister, Rachael Darroch and Rodger Motherwell attended the recent UK WISPA members meeting in Glasgow, which brought together much of the industry’s wireless internet service providers, many of whom are registered suppliers to the R100 Scottish Broadband Voucher Scheme (SBVS).

The two-day meeting with UK WISPA members was a great opportunity for us to hear first-hand developments within the field of fixed wireless access (FWA) broadband and for us to catch up in-person with many of the SBVS suppliers we speak to on a regular, but virtual, basis.

FWA technology currently accounts for 54%* of all R100 SBVS vouchers delivered across Scotland. It’s a great option for rural locations as it’s less reliant upon cables in the ground or strung across poles. However, it does rely upon the ability to have a clear line of sight between the mast and the property that it’s transmitting the signal to, which can prove challenging in some of the more rural parts of Scotland.

Over the course of the two days we heard from a variety of suppliers who are Scottish based, but also guests from the United States – Alta Labs and Terrana Networks.

David Burns of UK WISPA shared a number of insights including the thinking that in general most people don’t require true gigabit speeds, and high speed broadband that meets residential requirements can be supplied through FWA.

We heard from Ian Corden, UK WISPA, and Andreas Skliros, Intracom Telecom about gigabit radio and spectrum. And one of the most interesting take-aways from the event was around the potential release of up to 400 Megahertz (MHz) of spectrum in the 24-28 Gigahertz (GHz) range using a proposed shared access licence arrangement from Ofcom.

Essentially, this means the potential introduction of an important opportunity to help people connect at very high speeds in rural areas and with a range of several kilometres. This could encourage providers to develop and offer products to customers using enhanced 5G capability. However, for small internet service providers (ISPs), it was acknowledged that 5G systems can present barriers to adoption in terms of cost, complexity and training.

Terrana Networks expanded on this when showcasing their FWA solution that’s gaining traction in the United States. Their technology supports speeds up to 1,000 Mbps using the light touch licensed 5 Ghz spectrum in the UK, but uniquely, can overcome line of sight issues such as trees and buildings that have historically complicated build for FWA providers. Their equipment could also reduce the number of masts required to cover a given area when trying to overcome line of sight issues.

While there are differences between the US and UK markets – in terms of shared access bands and speeds – it was food for thought about the art of the possible.

Stephen Bage gave an account of where BDUK are in relation to the Project Gigabit procurement lots and the current status of the Gigabit Broadband Voucher Scheme. This is an initiative by the UK government, but those vouchers can be combined with the £5,000 subsidy from the R100 SBVS where eligible.

As ever, it was great to use the event to mix with both new and familiar faces and take the opportunity to congratulate two of our registered R100 SBVS suppliers on their award wins. GigaAir picked up Best Gigabit Wireless Project and Cromarty Firth Wireless Networks were awarded a Rural Hero gong – well done both!

You can find out more about the different technologies available under the R100 Scottish Broadband Voucher Scheme and how to engage a supplier in our Vouchers section.

* at 1 October 2023