Day 2, European Spectrum Management Conference: We need a balanced debate on the future of UHF spectrum

Day 2, The 7th Annual European Spectrum Management Conference, Brussels

My post yesterday focused on the weight of political and regulatory support at a European level for the reallocation of the 700MHz band to mobile, which might suggest the WRC 2015 debate is practically a “done deal”. So what now for the broadcast and mobile industries?

During the second day of the European Spectrum Management Conference in Brussels, I spoke to representatives from the ITU, European Commission, RSPG and Broadcast Networks Europe and I was struck by the lack of coordination between the mobile and television communities when debating spectrum issues. To their credit, the mobile industry has already done a lot of thinking on the 700MHz opportunity, but neither the Commission nor the ITU tried to suggest that the broadcast community has yet been properly consulted. Broadcasters on the other hand have been slow to react to the WRC’12 announcement, and they are now short on time to form a consensus view ahead of the fast approaching July meeting of the Joint Task Group.

We desperately need a balanced debate participated in by both the mobile and broadcast communities before decisions are taken that inadvertently harm the future of either industry. We are impacting the future of two important industries to the European economy and these issues should not be taken lightly.

I’d like to ask some fundamental questions:

  • Have we fully understood the the future network capacity requirements of both the mobile and broadcast sectors?
  • Have we thought through the full range of available options to increase network capacity before defaulting to radio spectrum?
  • Is it possible for mobile and broadcast to co-exist in the UHF band?

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Day 1, European Spectrum Management Conference: Mobile drives in to the 700MHz band

Day 1, The 7th Annual European Spectrum Management Conference, Brussels

Radio spectrum is the life blood of a wide range of industries competing for access, and the debate between mobile and terrestrial TV has been particularly fierce. The announcement at the World Radio Conference 2012 (WRC) that the 700MHz band is to be allocated to mobile from 2015 has caught many European broadcasters off guard. The removal of 700MHz from broadcasting, equivalent to one third of terrestrial SD channels, threatens the future of a terrestrial platform that for many countries has been the driver of their content and advertising industries, delivering significant economic and cultural value and the mechanism of choice to achieve key public policy objectives.

But the mobile industry’s thirst for new spectrum is unrelenting, driven by unprecedented consumer demand for mobile data services. The European Commission has set a target of identifying 1200MHz of new spectrum for mobile by 2015. The sub-1 GHz bands currently allocated to TV offer attractive technical properties that operators argue will deliver a better quality of service for consumers at significantly lower cost. It is also clear that mobile is a major source of future innovation across many industries, including content, and it would be wrong to inadvertently stifle these opportunities.

So should 700MHz go to mobile? Although no decision will officially be made until WRC 2015, presentations made yesterday during the first day of the European Spectrum Management Conference points to an overwhelming weight of support at a European level forcing through approval.

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