Ofcom has announced plans to simplify the licensing of private radio communications used by a wide range of businesses, including utilities, supermarkets and taxi and courier firms.
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The changes will come into effect in early 2008 and are designed to reduce complexity - 21 different types of licence, covering 50,000 licensees, will be replaced by three basic types.
There will be Light Licences, Area Defined Licences, and Technically Assigned Licences.
Light Licences are simple licences that do not require coordination with other spectrum users, Area Defined Licences are for geographically based national or regional use, and Technically Assigned Licences are for dedicated or specialist services at a specific location or local area.
For increased flexibility, existing restrictions on the type of technology and use will be removed within each category, freeing use of the spectrum. But minimum technical conditions will remain in place to protect against harmful interference.
To simplify administration, Ofcom will introduce an online system to allow businesses to apply for and manage their licences directly. The service, called Mobile Assignment Technical System (MASTS), will be available from early 2008.
There will also be an extension to spectrum trading.
Area Defined Licences and Technically Assigned Licences, covering 35,000 licencees, will be tradable from early 2008, allowing licensees greater flexibility to acquire additional spectrum or to sell or lease spectrum assets that are no longer required.
In addition, there will also be new fee structure for some licences from early 2008. Business radio fees will be calculated according to geographical location and coverage required.
Community radio licences will be simplified to a flat fee, and fees will be changed for other specific uses of spectrum, including satellite and programme making links.