Wireless local area networks (WLANs)—also known as Radio LANs (RLANs)—are used to form short-range connections between networked computers without the need for interconnecting cables.
Significant Australian interest in using WLANs first appeared in the mid-1990s, with the development by then of low powered devices using spread spectrum direct sequence or frequency-hopping techniques. Such techniques support viable radiocommunications in frequency bands where a high degree of frequency sharing can be expected.
In WLAN networks, this sharing demand arises wherever high overall usage is occurring. This could arise within a single network or between neighbouring networks in locations such as commercial business centres. By design, these types of WLAN devices can cope with mutual interference to a high degree.
Domestic frequency planning for WLANs began in 1995 with industry distribution of the discussion paper Proposed Spectrum Management Framework for Spread Spectrum Devices – SPP 1/95.
Low powered spread spectrum devices class licence
In May 1996, a class licence was introduced authorising the use of low-powered spread spectrum devices in frequency bands around 920 MHz, 2.4 GHz and 5.8 GHz. These bands are popular for many low-powered short-range applications (see the article Spectrum Opportunities for Short-Range Radiocommunications for more information).
WLANs (including 802.11b technology in the 2.4 GHz band) make up one of many types of low-powered spread spectrum devices able to be used under the spread spectrum devices class licence.
By the late 1990s, regulatory support for other modulation schemes for WLANs was beginning to appear in the USA and Europe. This prompted further detailed frequency planning activity that led the ACA (the ACMA's predecessor) to seek industry comment in May 2000 on its discussion paper Introduction of Spectrum Arrangements for Radio Local Area Networks (RLANs) in the 5 GHz Frequency Range – SP 1/00.
Low interference potential devices class licence
Subsequent updates to the former ACA's class licence for low interference potential devices (the LIPD class licence) authorised the use of WLANs (including those using 802.11a technology) in the 5.2 GHz and 5.8 GHz bands.
Overseas regulatory developments in late 2001 saw support for US-based industry standards for WLAN technologies (such as the HomeRF specification) in the 2.4 GHz band established. Domestic frequency planning activity on this aspect commenced in the same year.
The former ACA took the opportunity in this planning cycle to also review the degree to which Australian spectrum access arrangements for low-powered spread spectrum devices in the 2.4 GHz band could be further aligned with overseas regimes, beyond that able to be established under the 1996 class licence. The former ACA incorporated those planning outcomes into the latest spread spectrum devices class licence, which came into effect on 18 December 2002.
In July 2002, the former ACA completed a review of the spectrum and interference management arrangements for various types of IEEE 802.11 devices in other countries, mainly in the USA and Europe.
Frequency planning work was completed in late 2002 to assess what Australian opportunities might arise from the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Second Report and Order (FCC 02-151) adopted on 16 May 2002. In particular, this order supports low-powered devices in the 2.4 GHz band that use comparatively complex digital modulation schemes like direct sequence spread spectrum (DSSS) or OFDM. Technology that would comply with the IEEE 802.11g update (expected to be approved by the IEEE Standards Board in June 2003) appears to be supported.
Proposed updates to the ACMA's current LIPD class licence are now under way.
For more information about WLANs, see these other ACMA publications:
- frequently asked questions Wireless local area networks in the 2.4 GHz band-accessing the public telecommunications network and related issues
- Fact sheets:
See also information about radiocommunications class licensing and the following ACMA publications:
- Spectrum Opportunities for Short-Range Radiocommunications
- The report of the review of the spectrum and interference management arrangements for IEEE 802.11 devices in other countries.
You can also contact the ACMA.
Please note: this document is intended as a guide only and should not be relied on as legal advice or regarded as a substitute for legal advice in individual cases.