France leads Europe with big chunk of TV spectrum for mobile TV, Internet services

The “International Herald Tribune” reported last week that France proposed allocating about a fifth of its prime TV broadcasting spectrum — the UHF band — for mobile Internet and TV services by the end of 2009, making it the first European country to do so. Sweden and Holland both announced similar plans and the UK is still considering it.

At a moment when European countries are individually deciding how to divide spectrum freed up as domestic broadcasters convert to the more compressed digital format, mobile industry representatives were pleased by the French move. It also meets the approval of EU telecommunications commissioner Viviane Reding, whose recommendation of plans requiring efficient spectrum use by EU countries will be taken up this month by the EU's 27 national telecommunications ministers.

A continentwide broadband network would likely push down Internet service costs for consumers — especially in rural areas — and enable large mobile operators to sell mobile TV and broadband services across national borders.

At the same time, broadcasting groups are wary. The European Broadcasting Union says the French spectrum allocation could deprive French broadcasters of spectrum they need for bandwidth-hungry HD broadcasts. They also fear possible interference between the two types of signals.

However, French policy-makers say the country's broadcasters will be able to use the remaining portion of the UHF spectrum — 470MHz-790MHz. That's enough, they say, to support 11 terrestrial broadcasters plus two new mobile TV broadcasters.

For more information, visit