The Caribbean dilemma of fancy wireless gadgets that do not work

A brief explanation of the challenges many Caribbean countries experience when wireless devices are imported and cause harmful interference.

 

The proliferation of nifty home and security gadgets has begun to infringe on bandwidth, and in some cases, their signals conflict with more powerful transmission networks, rendering the consumer devices redundant.

The result is that many of the devices that use radio signals cannot function, leading to rising complaints.

Now the Spectrum Management Authority (SMA), which says persons have been turning up at its doorsteps more frequently to vent their frustrations, is trying to alert consumers to the real impact on the spectrum of the wireless devices they buy online or while overseas, and is now trying to police the activity to safeguard the integrity of the bandwidth it manages and sells.

(Source:  The Gleaner)

The challenge highlighted by above article is not unique to Jamaica. Across the Caribbean, several countries are grappling with the plethora of electronic devices that are being imported and their effect of the radio frequency spectrum.

Globally, coordination and management of the radio frequency spectrum is done by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU). At the country level, there is usually a government agency that manages and assigns frequencies to specific services and users. The world has been divided into three regions, with each region having slightly different frequency bands allocated for specific purposes. As shown in Figure 1, the Americas is in Region 1.

ITU regions (source- ITU)
Figure 1: ITU regions (Source: ITU)

 

As a national resource, countries can adjust the frequency allocations according to their needs, provided they remain consistent with the Radio Regulations maintained by the ITU. It therefore means that even in the same region, it cannot be assumed that all products made for one market will automatically work in another market.  A case in point: not all wireless products or devices made for the United States (US) market will work properly, or work without causing harmful interference to other services, in the Caribbean although both the US and the Caribbean are in Region 2.

Further, in the Caribbean and due to the close proximity of some of the countries in particular, there are concerted efforts to coordinate radio frequency allocations in order to minimise interference between countries. Hence it is not uncommon for specific frequencies that are in use in one country to not be available for use in a neighbouring country, which does affect how frequencies are allocated and assigned in both countries.

Another layer of complexity is added in the region due to countries, such as those that are French colonies, which adhere to the spectrum allocations for France, which is in Region 1. As mentioned earlier, the allocations between Regions are slightly different, which again requires countries to coordinate to minimise interference and the usability of the spectrum.

It is thus into that mix that wireless devices (or devices that have wireless components) are being imported – which may not be adhere to the frequency bands and allocations that specific countries have established. The result: the problems that have been reported in Jamaica.

 

Image credit:   Sura Nualpradid (FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

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1 Comment

  • The problem of electromagnetic signal interference of wireless devices is an issue that needs urgent attention by both the private sector and government agencies.

    Furthermore, Caribbean governments have to rapidly catch up with the ever-evolving standards that govern digital technologist. International and reginal authorities must do more to ensure ensure that the Caribbean Islands continue to train personal to understand the need to speak up in international forums.

    The Caribbean also needs to assert it’s self in the industry on all levels, technical and theoretical.

    Only when we have realised that, will consistency in the delivery of digital consumer products be seamless and error-free.

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