The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) World Radio Conference 2012, which took place at the start of the year, concluded with a decision to allocate additional UHF spectrum to mobile services in ITU Region 1 (Europe, Africa and parts of the Middle East).
The spectrum could provide Europe with much needed additional bandwidth for commercial mobile broadband services and may offer a solution to the needs of European public safety organisations, which are currently seeking additional spectrum for mission-critical mobile broadband networks.
The new mobile allocation is to be made from 694MHz–790MHz, and is proposed to come into force in 2015. This delay to 2015 is for technical studies regarding the availability and assignment of the new band, before bringing the band into use.
This ‘second digital dividend’ in ITU Region 1 is adjacent to the first digital dividend at 800MHz (from 790-862MHz), which was put into place at the previous WRC in 2007.
Janette Stewart, analyst with Mason, said there are three principal factors which led to the second digital dividend in ITU Region 1.
Firstly, it enables countries in Africa and the Middle East (where parts of the 800MHz band are used for other systems and services) to proceed with awarding digital dividend spectrum in the 700MHz band.
The second is that the 700MHz band provides additional bandwidth that can be used to accommodate mobile broadband services in Europe, in response to various estimates that the current spectrum availability for mobile broadband use may be insufficient to meet demand in future.
Finally, the 700MHz allocation in Europe raises the prospect of harmonisation with other ITU world regions, where use of the 700MHz band (although a slightly different bandwidth, from 698-806MHz) was agreed back in 2007’s WRC.
However, implementing the new 700MHz allocation within ITU Region 1 will create a number of challenges, according to Stewart. The key challenge is that the spectrum is used for digital terrestrial television broadcasting, especially in the UK, Spain, France, Portugal and Italy. These services would have to be moved, involving an expensive retuning exercise.