Broadcasters concerned over EC plans for 700MHz

The European Commission this week recommended that the EU safeguard access to spectrum below 700MHz for digital terrestrial television until 2030. But the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) has expressed concern about the early release of the 700MHz frequencies.

The EC group chaired by former European Commissioner and WTO Director General Pascal Lamy looked at future use of the UHF spectrum band between 470 to 790MHz and addressed discrepancies between the internet service provider community and the broadcast community, which both have designs on the sub-700MHz spectrum.

The report suggests that the 694-790MHz band, which is currently used by terrestrial broadcasting networks, should be dedicated to wireless broadband across Europe by 2020. But it also suggests that EU should adopt a common position against the co-primary allocation of the core audiovisual band (470-694MHz) to the mobile service at WRC 2015.

However, this compromise was not enough to appease the broadcast sector, which expressed concern that the 700MHz band be released to other stakeholders, especially mobile phone operators, by 2020 with the flexibility of plus or minus two years.

“There is a danger that this will not give broadcasters and viewers enough time to adapt to appropriate spectrum arrangements and ensure the necessary upgrade of DTT networks and consumer equipment, especially in countries where DTT is the main TV platform,” said Simon Fell, the EBU’s Head of Technology & Innovation.

The broadcasting industry argues that an early release date is likely to cause disruption to TV services in a number of Member States, especially where, owing to the lack of capacity, the transition reduces the volume and quality of content offered to viewers.

The EC report notes that because of the “recent assignments in the 800MHz band, the 700MHz band is not immediately needed for mobile services” and proposes a “stock take” by 2025 to provide a factual basis for future policy decisions on spectrum allocation.

The EBU believes this should include all relevant market and technology developments as well as all relevant frequency bands for terrestrial broadcasting and mobile broadband.

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