Interference in the unlicensed 5.8 GHz and 900 MHz spectrum bands is increasingly becoming a cause of concern for a number of smaller wireless ISPs, and they say access to portions of the 700 MHz band would go a long way to solving the problem. Rainy Day Software Corp., a Winnipeg-based wireless ISP and network consulting firm, explains in comments to an Industry Canada proposal to license parts of the 700 MHz band to mobile services that without an immediate solution to the growing interference levels, these two licence-exempt bands will become virtually unusable.  The problem for wireless ISPs is that they mostly rely on the use of licence-exempt spectrum, which has no guarantees of interference protection as set out in rules created by Industry Canada. This, combined with the increasing number of Canadians using wireless networks for personal or small office purposes, makes it virtually impossible to deploy a stable point-to-multipoint wireless network offering high levels of service quality. As well, there is a lack of available spectrum in other bands in which smaller wireless ISPs can move into.  Rainy Day notes in its comments to the Industry Canada licensing process that greater penetration of wireless equipment makes the situation worse and self-policing or coordination efforts don’t always work. "As increased use of wireless technologies reach the consumer level, there is less incentive for the end users to coordinate efforts voluntarily, leaving professional operators further ‘squeezed’ in the available bands. At the same time, wireless manufacturers are now creating equipment designed to deal with the higher RF noise floor we are seeing in most areas. In essence, this amounts in some instances to little more than ‘shouting louder’ than competing signals, which further perpetuates the problem," the company writes in its comments to the department.  Erik Jansson, one of the principals at Rainy Day, says wireless ISPs and private network operators are functioning in an environment where Joe Citizen can purchase a $100 router, put an antenna on it and effectively cause substantial interference to existing neighbouring networks. "What we’d like to see is some bandwidth set aside specifically for private networks and WISPs," where there aren’t any cordless phones or indoor wireless networks operating, which both serve to bring the noise floor up in a certain area, he says.  "We contend that barring the use of frequencies within a given band by consumer-grade electronic products will help ensure some longevity in the band, as spectrum is a limited resource," reads Rainy Day’s comments.  Brent Toderash, another principal at Rainy Day, adds that the services the company is providing isn’t just simple Internet access. Some of its customers are using these wireless networks for mission critical applications. "We need something that is not available at the consumer grade or the consumer level," he tells Report on Wireless. There needs to be a little "insulation" between the consumer grade equipment and that offering telco grade or higher quality of service applications, he says.  The solution, they say, is simple and two fold. Jansson tells RoW that it’s time Industry Canada revisits its licence-exempt spectrum policy. He says that there should be exceptions made for wireless ISPs and companies deploying private networks, affording them a certain level of interference protection from consumer-based systems. The department could implement a type of licensing scheme where only wireless ISPs or private network operators receive permission to operate on certain channels, which aren’t available to the general masses.  "What we’re suggesting is similar to a licence where you have some sort of fee on an annual or per link basis," he says, adding that operator channel assignments can be tabulated in a database accessible by all companies registered with the department. "Basically, it’s in everybody’s interest at that point because they’re all professional operators and they don’t want to interfere (with others’ operations). It’s a little less cumbersome than having to go through the whole engineering process and getting Industry Canada involved in a much deeper level."  Rainy Day isn’t alone in its struggles with interference. At the Canadian Telecommunications Forum in Ottawa last November, wireless ISP Rigstar Communications Inc. expressed frustration over its inability to access spectrum in the 5.8 GHz band in Alberta. The company said at the time that there should be some sort of mediation process whereby two competing operators can negotiate access to channels.  The second part of the solution is to quickly open up more spectrum in the 700 MHz band for wireless ISPs. In Western Canada, Jansson says, since the UHF channels are virtually unused, there should be no reason why they can be used for the provision of broadband wireless access services.  "We’ve got the DTV transition charts from Industry Canada on what channels are going to be taken up, what ones have been allocated, and there’s certainly plenty of space even right in Winnipeg for a couple of channels in the 700 MHz band," he says.  The company contends that Industry Canada should follow the lead of the Federal Communications Commission and proceed to open up additional spectrum in the 700 MHz band. Rainy Day notes that the 698MHz-746 MHz band (analog TV channels 52 to 59) is of particular interest, but adds that it isn’t the only band that could be used for broadband wireless access services.  Rainy Day also calls on the department to issue experimental spectrum licences in the 700 MHz band covering urban areas and approve pilot projects using spectrum in the same band in rural areas. The company plans to file an application with the department for an experimental spectrum licence in the 700 MHz band, but didn’t provide further detail of the pending application.