The homogeneous boundary value problem arising in the propagation of electromagnetic waves guided by an open tape helix modelled to be of infinitesimal tape thickness and infinite tape-material conductivity is shown to be inherently ill posed. It is demonstrated how the ill posed problem may be regularised using the mollification method. The regularised boundary value problem is then solved to yield the approximate dispersion equation which takes the form of the solvability condition for an infinite system of linear homogeneous algebraic equations viz., the determinant of the infinite-order coefficient matrix is zero. For the numerical computation of the dispersion characteristic, all the entries of the symmetrically truncated version of the coefficient matrix are estimated by summing an adequate number of the rapidly converging (after regularisation) series for them. The tape-current distribution is estimated from the null-space vector of the truncated coefficient matrix corresponding to a specified root of the dispersion equation. A comparison of the numerical results with those for the anisotropically conducting model (that neglects the component of the tape-current density perpendicular to the winding direction) of the tape helix reveals that the propagation characteristic computed on the basis of the anisotropically conducting model could be substantially in error even for moderately wide tapes. © 2012 The Institution of Engineering and Technology.