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ITU Allocates 700MHz Band For Mobile Broadband

Steve McCaskill is editor of TechWeekEurope and ChannelBiz. He joined as a reporter in 2011 and covers all areas of IT, with a particular interest in telecommunications, mobile and networking, along with sports technology.

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700MHz spectrum is allocated globally at WRC-15, but will other bands be handed over for mobile broadband?

The UN-affiliated International Telecommunications Union (ITU) has officially allocated the 700MHz band for mobile broadband on a global scale, with the promise that “full protection” will be offered for Digital Terrestrial Television (DTT) services like Freeview.

Freeview delivers broadcasts using the spectrum, but the mobile industry has identified the band is one that can offer additional capacity for mobile data services and global harmonisation will allow equipment manufacturers to deliver economies of scale.

In the UK, Ofcom plans to reassign 700MHz for mobile use as early as 2020 and has stressed that no ‘digital switchover’, similar to the one which concluded in 2012, will be needed.

700MHz spectrum

mobile workforce“The WRC-15 decision represents a landmark in the development of broadband mobile on a worldwide scale, regardless of location, network or terminal used,” said ITU Secretary-General Houlin Zhao at the World Radicocommunications Conference (WRC-15).

“It goes a long way in enabling bridging of the digital divide, while fully protecting the other services currently operated in the band.”

“The global harmonisation of the 694-790 MHz frequency band that has been decided by WRC-15 paves the way for manufacturers and mobile operators to offer mobile broadband at an affordable price in currently underserved areas,” added François Rancy, director of the ITU Radiocommunication Bureau.

The GSMA has spent the past year or so lobbying governments and regulators around the world, with each country given one vote. In addition to the 700MHz band, the mobile industry body is targeting airwaves between 470MHz and 698MHz, L-band frequencies located between 1300 and 1518MHz, the 2.7 – 2.9GHz band and ‘C Band’ spectrum between 3.4GHz and 4.2GHz. Around 1000MHz of spectrum is currently allocated for mobile services, but the GSMA says another 600-800MHz needs to be allocated by the ITU.

Broadcast battle

businessman mobile“Clearance of the 700MHz band for mobile broadband services must be organised so that Freeview retains its current coverage and channel line-up and viewers must be fully supported throughout this process,” a spokesperson  Neither broadcasters nor viewers should bear the cost of any transition and terrestrial television must be assured continued access to alternative airwaves for the long term.’

The allocation of sub 700MHz is likely to be much more contentious, with Ofcom among the European regulators opposing its use for mobile broadband because of its use for television.

The GSMA reiterated its calls for the band to be allocated for mobile broadband last week, but denied it would impact broadcasters.

“There is much misinformation being disseminated,” said the organisation. “To be clear, the GSMA is not advocating for an end to traditional broadcast television.”

WRC-15 concludes on 27 November, but the GSMA says negotiations will continue right until the end.

“It goes to the wire on the last evening,” Alex Sinclair, acting director-general of the GSMA told the Huawei Mobile Broadband Forum in Hong Kong last month. “We’re reasonably confident.”

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