Ofcom Says Any 700MHz Switchover Won’t Harm Freeview

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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Ofcom investigates possibility of reassigning 700MHz for mobile braodband but says Freeview TV remains too important to be margnialised

Ofcom says the 700MHz spectrum currently used for Digital Terrestrial Television (DTT) services could be reassigned for mobile broadband without significant disruption to television viewers or harm to the Freeview platform.

The communications watchdog has long said the 700MHz band is ideal for helping the UK cope with increasing mobile data demand, which it claims could be 45 times higher by 2030, but such a move would be controversial given that the most recent switchover occurred only two years ago.

Ofcom has promised to safeguard DTT, which it says provides a “vital role”, especially for older people, in providing low cost, near universal access to public service television.

700MHz band

Radio, Wireless © Vladru Shutterstock 2012Ofcom predicts DTT will continue to remain an important platform for the next decade and does not expect a full switch off until at least 2030, when technologies such as IPTV and video-on-demand could be mainstream thanks to increased coverage and adoption of superfast broadband.

The 700MHz spectrum could be released as early as 2020 and Ofcom promises this could be achieved without a need for another switchover, with the majority of TV viewers simply able to retune existing equipment. Airwaves between 470 and 694MHz could be used, but Ofcom admits that a “very small minority” of 9.5 percent might have to change their rooftop aerials.

Ofcom has warned that DTT must continue to evolve if it is to remain relevant, and said it believes that hybrid connected products and upgrades to transmission and compression standards could future proof it against future developments.

Spectrum demands

Wireless microphones also use the 700MHz band and Ofcom says it is working with the programme making and special events (PMSE) to ensure there is enough spectrum available, with a number of alternative bands already identified.

“Ofcom’s role is to ensure the UK makes the best and most efficient use of its airwaves, which is vital to enable UK’s digital economy to meet consumers’ needs,” said Ofcom CEO Ed Richards. “Our plans will allow digital terrestrial TV to thrive, while ensuring the UK’s mobile infrastructure can support consumer demand and economic growth. We also recognise the important role the PMSE sector plays in the cultural life of the nation.”

Last month, Ofcom published its spectrum blueprint for the next few years, and has already identified ’25 times’ as much spectrum that could be released to help cope with future data demands and the development of 5G technologies.

This includes the 2.3GHz and 3.4GHz spectrum currently being used by the Ministry of Defence, which is set to be released as early as 2015, and bandwidth that could support White Space technology.

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