08/02/2009

Digital dividend: clearing the 800 MHz band | Ofcom

Digital dividend: clearing the 800 MHz band | Ofcom

Ofcom is holding a consultation on what's being called the 800MHz band. Some parts of the band are expected to become free after Digital Switch Over (DSO) in 2012.

Ofcom were planning to release 112MHz of spectrum after DSO comprising of: -

* a smaller, upper band of 48 MHz at 806-854 MHz (channels 63-68)
* a larger, lower band of 64 MHz between 550 MHz and 630 MHz (channels 31-35, 37 and 39-40)

This has subsequently been increased to 128MHz by clearing out channel 36 used by aeronautical radar and channel 38 by radioastronomy.

Many countries in Eurpoe have followed the UK's lead and are making spectrum available, but they are proposing to open up more spectrum in the 800MHz band comprising of 72 MHz at 790 - 862 MHz – channels 61 - 69.

After DSO channels 61 and 62 were expected to be used by DTT (digital terrestrial television) and channel 69 for programme-making and special events (PMSE), mainly wireless microphones. However Ofcom has valued the released spectrum at around £2 - 3bn and wants to move DDT and PMSE to channels 38 - 40).

Ofcom believes that the costs of clearing channels 61, 62 and 69 will be modest compared to the benefits. They estimate it will cost around £90-200m. These costs could be met by new licensees in the 800 MHz band and/or the Government.

By moving DDT from those bands, users will have to retune their digital set-top boxes (or they may lose EPG information), however that should only take a few minutes and shouldn't cause a major impact.

By making the spectrum available, innovative new services could run in the 800MHz band such as wireless broadband or new mobile services. It is in the best interests of the UK that Ofcom are allowed to proceed with this plan (800MHz has very good building penetration so blanket wireless coverage of an area is possible as per current TV coverage).

The consultation closes on April 20th 2009.
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