Ofcom has released a new consultation document reviewing the future use of UHF Bands 1 and 2 (410 to 470 MHz) in the UK and is inviting interested parties to comment on its proposals.
The document consults on proposals to use the spectrum in the 410 to 450 MHz (UHF Band 1) and 450 to 470 MHz (UHF Band 2) bands more intensively and efficiently to best address the requirements of current and future users.
Ofcom notes that the spectrum in this range is attractive to users as it has good in-building penetration as well as coverage. These bands already deliver important benefits to UK citizens and consumers and are used by a wide range of parties.
Users include the Ministry of Defence (MOD), Emergency Services (ES) and civil users referred to as Business Radio (BR). BR provides services to many industry sectors, for example transport, security, manufacturing and utilities (water, gas and electricity industries). The bands also support Programme Making and Special Events (PMSE), maritime and aeronautical sectors, Amateur Radio and licence exempt (LE) use (including short range devices).
The regulator proposes to: increase sharing; change some of the licence products to better meet the needs of the users; and to make access to this spectrum more uniform. The aim of the policy proposals is to set a framework for managing this spectrum for the next ten years.
Addressing the audience attending the FCS Business Radio Event on 17 November 2016, and ahead of the release of the consultation paper, Vaughan John, Principal Policy Manager at Ofcom said the purpose of the review was to establish a long term spectrum strategy to address the business radio sector’s need, and to ensure there is efficient use of UK spectrum.
Ofcom looked at how will demand from current users change and what is the demand from new uses? He said: ‘The conclusions we have drawn are very close to those of the Spectrum Policy Advisory Group and Tech UK. Voice is still the predominant requirement – that was the very clear message that has come back.’
He continued: ‘While we see some requirement for data, we’ve not seen evidence of an explosion of data; growth, yes, but moderate – so perhaps there is not a great need for more spectrum?’ He added that UHF 2 is not an attractive band for the mobile cellular sector.
John said that Ofcom’s view is that it does not need to do anything too drastic. Instead, it proposes to evolve its current processes. He added that he thought the changes would be relatively minor in terms of how the business radio sector does its business. ‘We encourage everyone to respond to the consultation; the more evidence you can provide the better – it is very important to us.’
Ofcom has identified three policy proposals in order to address the spectrum management challenges in the UHF Bands 1 & 2. These are:
• Add additional channels to Simple UK and Simple Site licences to recognise the appeal of these licence products;
• Changes to the Technical Frequency Assignment Criteria, which includes increasing the sharing factor from two to four (with an initial increase to a sharing factor of three) for Technically Assigned licences and increasing the planning thresholds with respect to the noise floor for the bands 55.75 to 68.0 MHz (VHF Band 1) and 68 to 87.5 MHz (VHF Low Band);
• Channel plan reconfiguration to a rationalised set of more common duplex spacings in order to defragment the bands and release additional capacity.
Ofcom also noted that for a number of years there have been discussions about aligning UHF Band 2 to match the channel configuration used in continental Europe. However, Ofcom’s conclusion is: ‘That would be a major intervention and would cause significant cost and disruption to all users of the band, most of whom would receive limited, if any, benefits from alignment. We have concluded that it is not necessary or proportionate to reconfigure the band as there is insufficient evidence to suggest that the benefit would outweigh the costs.’
The closing date for responses is 13 February 2017. You can access the document at the link below.
Strategic Review of UHF Band 1 and Band 2 - 410 to 470 MHz