08/05/2013

Ofcom consults on future use of 700MHz band

Ofcom , the Super regulator is holding a consultation on the future of the 700MHz band (694 - 790 MHz). This band is being used for Wireless Broadband in several countries and the EU is proposing to harmonise this band across the EU for the same purpose.

The band falls within spectrum used for Digital Terrestrial Television (DTT) also know as the UHF band IV and V which spans 470MHz through 862MHz. After the digital switchover the 800MHz band was cleared (channels 61 through 69) and this was recently auctioned off for use by mobile network for 4G/LTE services.

The lower end of the band (channels 21 through 30) starting at 470MHz is used for interleaved spectrum, local TV broadcasts (from 2013), Program making and special events (PMSE) and whitespace services (from 2014).

The band between channels 31 to 37 - the 600MHz band was cleared as part of the digital switchover.

Channel 38 is used for PMSE exclusively and now allows high power devices in the lower end of the spectrum.

The current 700MHz DTT band extends from channel 39 through channel 60 and will also be used for whitespace services from 2014.

If this spectrum is made available for mobile broadband use, it will have very good propagation characteristics and be good for rural broadband and other uses.

Though Ofcom is consulting now, the 700MHz band won't be available until 2018 at the earliest as use of the band must be in-line with International policy.

Ofcom have produced a nice picture describing the changes.

Ofcom has a duty under the Wireless Telegraphy Act 2006 to have regard to: -

  • the extent to which the electromagnetic spectrum is available for use, or further use, for wireless telegraphy
  • the demand for use of the spectrum for wireless telegraphy
  • the demand that is likely to arise in future for the use of spectrum for wireless telegraphy.

and using the 700MHz band falls into these duties.

Unfortunately it does mean all DTT transmissions will have to move into the cleared 600MHz (channels 31 through 37) band and the lower end of the current 700MHz band (channels 39 through 48) so in 2018 there is likely to be a second TV switchover. It's also likely that set top boxes will have to use DVB-T2 and MPEG4 (rather than the less efficient DVB-T and MPEG2 that is currently used by standard definition broadcasts today, though DTT in High Definition or HD already uses DBV-T2 and MPEG4).

The full statement is on-line here and stakeholders may respond through an on-line form.

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