Clover’s Week: Spectrum demands made with increasing frequency

Everyone wants valuable UHF spectrum, and the chances are the telcos are going to get it, writes Julian Clover.

Spectrum, as we are so often told, is something that is no longer being made. The demands placed upon it came into sharp focus this week with two announcements from Ofcom.

Not only is spectrum ‘no longer being built’, but different bands of frequencies have different properties, and are consequently used for different purposes. Short wave radio for example may not provide the best reception quality ever heard, but its signals can travel many thousands of miles.

The UHF band can provide reliable signals over a relative small area. As such it is used by television services, but for how much longer?

It has been clear for some time that the mobile sector had its eye on the frequencies used by television. The digital dividend has turned into 4G and the provision of mobile broadband. (Some operators might do well to offer fixed line services first, but that’s another story!)

So the announcement a week ago that there was likely to be a reshuffle of terrestrial TV services around 2018 came as no surprise. We already knew of plans within the ITU to reallocate TV spectrum around the time of the next major frequency planning conference in 2015.

But try telling that to the French, who are in the process of launch six new high definition television services, and we all know that TV is going HD. Compression technology may come to the rescue, but there follows the question as to what might be left to save.

There is a delicious irony that one of the reasons that mobile operators need the additional capacity is because of the demands on them for more video.

Ofcom, which serves to regulate both television and telephony services, has no choice other than to present the hand it has been dealt as good news for consumers. Thankfully the majority of them will have receivers capable of retuning themselves.

White Spaces is a much talked about idea that uses spectrum in between existing allocations for new purposes. Here Ofcom is turning its attention to ensuring there is no interference to existing spectrum users or indeed to those who might share the ‘newly-released’ spectrum.

What’s not to like?