EU advised to facilitate broadcasting-to-broadband spectrum use shift

Out-Law News | 02 Sep 2014 | 4:45 pm | 1 min. read

The European Commission has been advised to change the use of a section of radio frequency from broadcasting to mobile broadband usage.

In a report for the Commission, former EU Commissioner Pascal Lamy said the 700 MHz frequency band should be entirely dedicated to supporting wireless broadband services by approximately 2020. The band is currently used by terrestrial broadcasting networks and for transmitting sound from wireless microphones.

The Commission said that 700 MHz 'Ultra High Frequency' (UHF) band "represents 'prime real estate' in terms of use, capacity and reach".

"In all other world regions the 700 MHz band is already allocated on a co-primary basis to and increasingly used for mobile services," Lamy said in his report (34-page / 1.06MB PDF). "This band represents an opportunity for globally harmonised spectrum for mobile broadband offering economies of scale and roaming with any next generation mobile technology (LTE and beyond)."

"However, terrestrial broadcasting services are using the 700 MHz band today in the EU. For conventional mobile networks to have access to this band, terrestrial broadcasting networks would have to clear it because both types of networks cannot coexist in the same frequency band with today's technology," he said.

Lamy said, though, that broadcasters need confidence to invest in their networks. Therefore, the EU should guarantee the exclusive use of the 470-694 MHz frequency band for delivering broadcast services until 2030, subject to "further scrutiny" at a further "stock-taking" exercise which should be undertaken by 2025 at the latest, he said.

Lamy recognised that developments internationally could necessitate a change to his suggested policy. He said there is potential for moves towards greater harmonisation of spectrum use globally that could require the EU to enable the 470-694 MHz band to be used for mobile broadband services. He said the Commission could therefore adopt a more flexible plan which would enable that frequency band to be used by both digital terrestrial television (DTT) broadcasters and other communication service providers in different areas of the EU.

"My recommendation to the Commission for the 'flexibility option' is to study EU-harmonised scenarios allowing co-existence of traditional broadcasting services in the 470-694 MHz band with other downlink-only (i.e. unidirectional) electronic communications services, in cases where there is no or declining demand for DTT at national level," Lamy said. "Such scenarios should guarantee continued access to spectrum for terrestrial broadcasting as the primary user, subject to national demand."

"This calls for timely study, adoption and dissemination of an EU harmonized approach to supplemental downlink and its co-existence with terrestrial broadcasting services in order to preserve the specificities of the European audiovisual model and at the same time open the door to innovation and new services," he said.