back to article Watch out, world! Ofcom is off the leash to bite radio jammers

The UK radio regulator will start regulating the use of radio spectrum, but only at Olympic venues and only for the duration of the Games, despite calls for Ofcom to be given longer-lasting clout. Anyone interfering with public safety radios during the Olympics, and near any Olympic site, will have Ofcom on their backs, thanks …

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Facepalm

Now thats Consultation for you

6 pages from RSGB pointing out regulatory flaws, and the entire response from OFCOM.....a single word response 'yes'.

Sill, they can claim they consulted extensively and responded to people's concerns (without actually doing anything), so they met the point of the consultation, didn't they?

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Anonymous Coward

I think the two fingered salute is appropriate here.

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Silver badge

I've yet to really see an "OfWhatever" do what it's supposed to do.

They have repeatedly ignored whole swathes of things they should be cracking down on. "Unlimited" broadband? Still see it listed (e.g. on the article on Three today). Can I report unwanted / silent callers to anyone and get a decent response? No.

And when they do act, it's a token slap-on-the-wrist and say-no-more.

A watchdog with no teeth is nothing more than nuisance to everyone.

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@ Lee Dowlling

"A watchdog with no teeth is nothing more than nuisance to everyone."

Au contraire, a quick browse of their report and accounts reveals that there's some people OFCOM isn't a nuisance to. For example, Ed Richards, chief exec of the country's most ineffectual and useless regulator was paid £363,000 last year. I'll bet he doesn't think OFCOM's a nuisance. Then there's the ten other executives each paid an average of a quarter of a million quid for their valuable "services". Not to mention the non-execs, the most poorly paid of whom got over £40k for attending perhaps twelve meetings. Star performers in this universe of talent were outgoing non-exec chairman Philip Graf, who trousered £100,000 - not bad given that as a non-exec you're in charge of nothing, and incoming Colette Bowe, doing her bit to bring women directors into the same high repute as male directors. She relieved OFCOM of £183,000 in 2011, and that will come in very handy, because her salary as chairman of Electra Private Equity plc was a measly £150,000. And she only picked up about £10,000 as a trustee of the Nuffield Foundation, the £25,000 she can get as a non-executive director of the UK Statistics Authority won't go far, nor will whatever she gets as chairman of the Associated Board of the Royal School of Music. And she probably doesn't get much for being a board member of AXA Deutschland GmbH. It looks as though she may still be a board member of Morgan Stanley International. Then there's being chair of Queen Mary College London, Camden People's Theatre (right on, comrades!), and various other posts indicated. As you can see, she'll be spending a lot of time at OFCOM, with all those other interests taking a back seat.

So, Mr Dowling, I challenge you to take back your assertion that OFCOM is a nuisance to everyone.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: @ Lee Dowlling

Cheers for that. May I add some clarifications and additions?

"incoming Colette Bowe,"

Are you sure? Ms Bowe has been Chairperson at Ofcon since 2009, and on the Board at Ofcon since 2008. [1]

She is however incoming as Chairperson of the Associated British Royal Schools of Music, as of July 2012.

And one of her previous roles you didn't mention was as chair of the eminently well known Personal Investment Authority in the mid 1990s.

How does she manage it all?

She may be pleased you didn't mention her history with Westland/Heseltine/Brittan. So I'll mention them.

[1] http://www.ofcom.org.uk/about/how-ofcom-is-run/ofcom-board-2/members/colette-bowe-2/

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Re: @ Lee Dowlling

@AC 22:05

Yes, I accept your correction. Philip Graf isn't outgoing chairman, he was outgoing deputy chairman (so he's not even in charge of next to nothing, he was deputy in charge of next to nothing). That makes his circa £100k even more outrageous. Ms Bowe has indeed been chairman for a few years. There is a whole host of past appointments I didn't mention, but that a quick search will reveal. Current appointments not yet mentioned include being a trustee of the Tablet Trust (either religious propaganda or The True Word, depeding on your perspective), and being a governor of Bancrofts School (fees per pupil £13,600 per year, if you're interested).

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Watchdog back in the kennel after the Olympics

Still toothless, even out of it's kennel.

I wonder how it feels to be gummed to death by a toothless watchdog, or drowned in a sea of slobber...

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Anonymous Coward

OfLaunch

There will soon be missiles in various locations.

Can't they be retained and used on an ongoing basis to suppress nonconforming equipment?

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Anonymous Coward

Interesting "difference-that-is-not"

This is an interesting "difference-that-is-not" between OfComm and the FCC. In theory the FCC regulates ANYTHING that can emit RF, be it deliberate or accidental, is regulated by the FCC - so a TV must be a part 15 device (unlicensed emitter) and must follow the regs.

In theory.

In practice, the FCC operates under the principle of "mind over matter" : if nobody who matters minds, then it doesn't matter, so never mind. So in practice it's not much different than OfCom.

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Bronze badge
Childcatcher

Aside: "different than"

Blimey, I thought the fuss was over whether we should say "different from" or "different to'.

Never mind multiplication tables, when are schools going to teach consistent use of prepositions?

P.S. I'm much amused by* your explanation of "mind over matter".

* or whatever preposition you deem appropriate.

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Boffin

@David D. Hagood - - Re: Interesting "difference-that-is-not" - - Re: Intereference

The Four Axioms of Interference

For proper spectrum management, regulation should extend to ALL four 'points' of interference so as to maximise the use (i.e.: max number of available channels) of the spectrum. In recent times, it seems, the interference axioms are often conveniently forgotten:

1. Noise/Non Msg ==> RX

From: non-message producing devices (suppression, shielding of electrical switch noise) ==>

To: message receiving devices, RX (selectivity, intermodulation & dynamic range)

2. RX ==> RX

From: message receiving devices, RX (local osc. radiation, shielding) ==>

To: message receiving devices, RX (selectivity, intermodulation & dynamic range)

3. TX ==> RX

From: message producing devices, TX (power to fit service area, spurious rad., location) ==>

To: message receiving devices, RX (selectivity, intermodulation & dynamic range)

4. (TX ==> Non-RXing devices)

From: message producing devices, TX (power to service area, spurious rad., location) ==>

To: Non message receiving equipment (audio amps, pacemakers, etc.)

(For the Smart Alecs: I know that there's TX ==> TX, Noise ==> TX but that's more a problem for users than regulators.)

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The tail that wags the (watch)dog

One could assume that our new overlords and masters; the International Olympic Committee had a clause in the contract (otherwise known as the UK's new constitution) that requires the host nation (otherwise known as The Fiefdom) to have such a rule in place. It sits alongside all the other ones that grant the IOC virtually absolute power in controlling, disrupting and diminishing the lives of the poor sods serfs who live anywhere near an olympic venue.

All in the name of sport - the IOCs; seeing how far they can push a potential host nation into servitude with the sorts of demands that would make any on-tour pop prima-donna blush with embarrassment

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Black Helicopters

Re: The tail that wags the (watch)dog

I am fairly certain that the olympics is just a trial run for seeing how much we take to being run by a venal, corrupt, elitist bunch of unaccountable autocrats.

If we are OK with it we are going to apply to join the EU.

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FAIL

Re: The tail that wags the (watch)dog

Err... you are aware that we are a member of the European Union, and have been since 1973? I'm pretty sure that we are also already run by a bunch of corrupt autocrats, as we always have been.

That said, the 'Lympics is a massive and pointless waste of our money, and a shocking display of the triumph of corporate greed over common sense.

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Re: The tail that wags the (watch)dog

I wonder if they want each athlete to be provided with a bag of brown M&Ms.

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Joke

re: Re: The tail that wags the (watch)dog @loyalCommenter

No!! I don't believe it - when did that happen? About the same time your irony detector went on the blink?

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FAIL

Clearly inept

This is the same bunch who plan to flog off the so called white space (otherwise known as guard bands).

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Boffin

Re: Clearly inept

You might be surprised at the amount of ongoing work designed to protect the incumbent users of the white space frequencies...

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Clearly inept

Perhaps because we pointed out that one of the biggest of those users was the Olympics, so if they screwed us over as much as they originally planned we were not going to have a Games.

They still screwed us over - just not as badly as originally intended. I suspect it added rather a lot to the cost of the Games as well.

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Anonymous Coward

Ofcom regulating?

Ahahahahahaha.

Good one.

Ofcom haven't regulated anything in a decade.

Get to fuck with this nonsense, Ofcom are there to rubber stamp anything telecos want to do.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Ofcom regulating?

Ofcom haven't regulated anything in the last 30 years....

Since Maggie sacked all the ex-MoD staff who actually knew what they were doing and replaced them all with Estate Agents...

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Ofcom regulating?

Well I'd say early 90s they lost any technical ability but 2003 was the point at which Ofcom became a total joke. I do hope the current arsehole in charge of Ofcom gets the DG role at the BBC so we can get rid of the licence fee ASAP.

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Sprogs

There are many unlicensed VHF/FM broadcasters in a stone's throw of the Olympic Site. I am certain some of them are radiating 'sprogs' in the spectrum range OffCon are referring to. Interested to see what happens.

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WTF?

Clueless and Witless

If you read through the mind numbing legalise and look at the responses it is completely clear that Ofcom is both clueless and witless. It is also clear that the beardies in corduroys at the RSGB do understand what is needed.

In this age of austerity why not simply contract out the spectrum management to the RSGB and pack the wasters at Ofcom off to be house agents.

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Re: Clueless and Witless

Yes, give the management job to the RSGB, but don't send the OFCOM staff anywhere else.

Keep them all in the same place. If need be, set up a fence(preferably with barbed wire and electricity) around the headquarters. That way they won't be able to mess up anything else...

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Anonymous Coward

"why not contract out the spectrum management to the RSGB?"

"why not simply contract out the spectrum management to the RSGB and pack the wasters at Ofcom off "

One reason would be that BT Vision would (quite rightly) have to come off the market in its Powerline-Ethernet incarnation.

And we can't be having that, though actually the recent rise of the "smart TV" probably means that BT Vision's day is nearly done anyway. Especially so in a little while once people realise that $30 (retail) of hardware plus a bit of free software can turn a "dumb" TV into as smart a TV as anyone could need.

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Thumb Down

Re: "why not contract out the spectrum management to the RSGB?"

"And we can't be having that, though actually the recent rise of the "smart TV" probably means that BT Vision's day is nearly done anyway. Especially so in a little while once people realise that $30 (retail) of hardware plus a bit of free software can turn a "dumb" TV into as smart a TV as anyone could need."

So how are these smart TVs going to be getting their connectivity then?

They're not all going to be in the same room as the broadband router, all the former BT Vision customers aren't going to find that the cabling Pixie has visited overnight to grant them the boon of pervasive Cat5/6, and badly configured cheap WiFi in an environment of other badly configured cheap WiFi installations is still not going to be able to handle multiple HD video streams.

You may hate and despise BT Vision for bringing PLT to the attention of the masses with a ready made use case but if you think it's demise will make the need/desire/market for an easy, simple, and effective way to extend a network round the home go away I fear you may be disappointed...

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Angel

Re: "why not contract out the spectrum management to the RSGB?"

Ha, the spectrum noise floor would be so low we'd be almost back before Faraday.

No plasmas, no iPhones, no switch mode power supplies, no police radars, no surveillance cameras, no car ignition systems...

I like it (at least for a week or so).

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Flame

Re: "why not contract out the spectrum management to the RSGB?"

Irrespective, it should be axed, ASAP.

BPL/PLT/PLC is an abomination--no ifs, no buts! It's perpetrators should be strung by the S&Cs from a meat hook, and anyone who has the hide to call it 'engineering' should be sent to the stocks.

It's concept is fundamentally flawed--it relies on one method of communication (it) to obliterate another--by screwing up the whole of the commercial spectrum and upping the RF noise floor around the entire planet. It's the world's dirtiest TX since the spark gap/Tesla coil and it feeds into the world's biggest antennae--the power line grid.

How this stuff ever got off the ground says heaps for what's happened to Spectrum Management since the Reagan/Thatcher era.

It sucks big, big time! I cannot think of a worse 'design' example/implementation in modern history.

---

P.S.: It's easily jammed -- conveniently take power from a GPO, convert it into jamming signals with $2.0 worth of bits then feed it immediately back down the line. It's a security risk, especially if emergency communications traffic is sent over its circuits. What a joke. ...And regulators STILL approved this??

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Silver badge

Urban interference.

These days very little seems to be done about so-called music stations broadcasting from the tops of tower blocks and blotting out BBC FM stations. Most seem to be highly commercial, promoting local venues. Following the money and nicking those who sponsor pirate stations might be more effective than trying to confiscate hardware.

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Silver badge

Re: Urban interference.

On the other hand, they are doing you a favour by blocking out BBC FM stations.

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Anonymous Coward

Spectrum enforcement by RSGB/ARRL

I like it!

No more BPL and noisy plasma sets.

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Stop

Once there was a broader principle at work in spectrum management.

Once there was a broader principle at work in spectrum management whether FCC, OfComm or whatever regulator.

It was a pretty simple axiom really, that was to keep the general noise floor down across the whole spectrum. What's happened worldwide since the beginning of the Reagan-Thatcher years is the general erosion of that principle.

How was it done? Simple:

Rule 1. Close down and outsource government spectrum authorities/regulators around the world.

Rule 2. Make sure you get rid of RF and spectrum management engineers first.

Rule 3. Outsource the regs.

Rule 4. Auction spectrum (MONEY speaks MUCH louder than spectrum noise).

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Boffin

The heart of the problem...

...is a bunch of un-elected, un-accountable civil servants who, with some (mis)direction from BIS, have chosen which laws they will enforce and which laws they will ignore. Ofcom's model of operation has been to generate cash for the exchequer and sod-all who get in its way!

Let us take the case of Electro Magnetic Compatibility. It is law, written into UK statute from EU Directive 2004/108/EC. The EMC regs were created in a time (1980s) when all sorts of electronic devices were bursting on to the market - and they were interfering with each other. EMC regulations set limits for generation of interference (some is allowed) and immunity from interference (your computer doesn't crash when you turn on a light). These are neatly rounded off with the essential requirements that devices do not wipe out important services, such as radio.

Add to the above, CE testing and certification. If a product is to be placed on the EU market, it must pass standardised tests to ensure CE compliance; and some of these include EMC tests for electronic devices. Member states are required to provide a Market Surveillance facility where products are monitored, and where necessary, tested for compliance. In the UK, that responsibility is handed down from BIS to Ofcom. So if you report a faulty electronic device to Trading Standards, they are supposed to be able to call on Ofcom's "expertise" to determine if the device meets the essential requirements of the EMC directive.

So why is the country in such a mess and the radio spectrum polluted with non-EMC compliant Power Line Technology (PLT), plasma TVs, switch-mode power supplies, and CFLs (to name a few)? Well, the buck stops at Ofcom. In cases where Trading Standards have sought help, Ofcom have said it's all OK and no laws are being broken, so TS cannot act. In a case where a computer SMPS was reported to TS, they could only act on the Low Voltage Directive and the supplier could only be warned. Had Ofcom used their legal EMC powers, the supplier would have faced court!

If Ofcom had acted correctly over the past 10 years, Power Line Technology would never had left the lab, as it cannot pass the essential requirements unless it is turned off; Panasonic would not be in radio-users' cross hairs over their Viera range of radio-noisy plasma televisions; cheap and nasty switched-mode power-supplies supplied without filtering components would be caught and their suppliers and manufacturers fined; and we would not be calling for Ofcom to be scrapped.

It should be noted that the RSGB cannot take over interference investigation or EMC compliance enforcement as they are not a legally bound entity. There is however, nothing stopping the current government from carrying out their pledge to remove Ofcom, returns its regulatory function to DMCS, and create a new organisation tasked with [radio] spectrum management and EMC compliance. The fines levied on all of the non-compliant manufacturers should fund the organisation for some years!

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Re: The heart of the problem... IT'S VERY SIMPLE.

MONEY!

(As I said above, MONEY speaks MUCH louder than spectrum noise.)

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