A new EU report proposes to reallocate the 700MHz UHF band for wireless broadband by 2020, plus or minus two years. This would require moving the current users, terrestrial TV broadcasting networks and wireless microphones off the spectrum band.
Lamy has proposed a ‘2020-2030-2025’ formula with the aim of enabling Europe to fulfil Digital Agenda for Europe broadband targets in three steps, while giving broadcasting a clear path to invest and develop further:
• The 700MHz band (694-790 MHz) is currently used by terrestrial broadcasting networks and wireless microphones) should be dedicated to wireless broadband across Europe by 2020 (+/- two years);
• Regulatory security and stability for terrestrial broadcasters in the remaining UHF spectrum below 700MHz to be safeguarded until 2030;
• A review by 2025 to assess technology and market developments.
VP Kroes also announced new rules on the harmonisation of spectrum bands used by wireless microphones, also in the UHF band, as well as the first report of an inventory showing how EU member states are using their radio frequencies today and what to focus on tomorrow. Combined, all three elements should help to secure the long-term future for broadband, broadcast and other wireless services in 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."
Kroes said: "Pascal's report lays down a path for creating capacity for fast wireless broadband everywhere and for ensuring a stable and predictable future for terrestrial broadcasting, while allowing those member states that want to move forward more quickly to do so. It would also ensure sustainable co-existence, as both sectors focus increasingly on advanced media services. This is essential to secure our changing digital future and hold our own in international negotiations."
Lamy's UHF proposals in detail
The 700MHz band (694-790 MHz) 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 2 years.
Regulatory stability should be ensured for broadcasting to continue its current use of the band 470-694 MHz 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 470-694 MHz 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 it stands and avoid any freeze of regulation compared to the rapid advance in technology and consumer behaviour.