However, the organisation that represents Europe’s public broadcasters says it remains concerned over the early release of the 700MHz frequencies.
The High Level Group chaired by former European Commissioner and WTO Director General Pascal Lamy looked at future use of the UHF spectrum band between 470 to 790MHz. It said: “the EU should adopt a common position against the co-primary allocation of the core audiovisual band (470-694MHz) to the mobile service at WRC 2015”.
Lamy’s proposal is for a “2020-2030-2025” formula – aimed squarely at meeting the Commission’s mission to roll out broadband as part of the Digital Agenda for Europe.
Presenting the report to Neelie Kroes in Brussels, Pascal Lamy said: “For too long the broadband and broadcasting communities have been at loggerheads about the use of the UHF spectrum band. There have been many different views and perspectives. On the basis of discussions with the two sectors, I have put forward a single scheme that could provide a way forward for Europe to thrive in the digital century.
Simon Fell, the EBU’s Head of Technology & Innovation, said safeguarding spectrum below 700MHz will enable public service broadcasters and the European audiovisual sector to continue reaching all sectors of the population, sustain broader content choice, and secure investments and innovation over the long term.
“It is essential that broadcasters are not financially weakened by any loss of the 700MHz band. Member States must heed the report’s conclusions on compensation and transitional arrangements,” he said.
Lamy’s UHF proposals:
The 700MHz band (694-790MHz) should be repurposed for wireless broadband, but with sufficient lead time to ensure a transition path that minimises cost for spectrum users and citizens and to accommodate the diversity in penetration levels of terrestrial broadcasting within Europe. This implies a time frame of around 2020, plus or minus two years.
Regulatory stability should be ensured for broadcasting to continue its current use of the band 470-694MHz until 2030. This involves national, EU and international measures. In consequence, at the World Radiocommunication Conference 2015 (which will review and revise global spectrum-use rules) Europe should reject any plans for primary allocation of mobile to the 470-694MHz band which is currently already allocated to broadcasting on a primary basis. Some flexibility could nevertheless be catered for through the development of ‘down link only’ technologies that give priority to primary broadcasting networks.
In order to take into account the evolving change in consumer demand as well as new technologies, such as converged networks or large-scale roll out of optic fibre, a stock-taking exercise of UHF spectrum use should be performed by 2025. It would give Europe the opportunity to re-assess where we stand and avoid any freeze of regulation compared to the rapid advance in technology and consumer behaviour.
The EBU is concerned about the recommendations that the 700MHz band be released to other stakeholders, especially mobile phone operators, by 2020 with the possibility this could take place as early as 2018.
Source: European Commission
“There is a danger that this will not give broadcasters and viewers enough time to adapt to appropriate spectrum arrangements and ensure the necessary upgrade of DTT networks and consumer equipment, especially in countries where DTT is the main TV platform,” said Fell.
There are plans for a review in 2025.
The report notes that because of the “recent assignments in the 800MHz band, the 700MHz band is not immediately needed for mobile services” and proposes a “stock take” by 2025 to provide a factual basis for future policy decisions on spectrum allocation.