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EBU promotes hybrid networks to unite mobile and broadcast

The EBU (European Broadcasting Union) has reiterated its determination to defend remaining spectrum still used by digital terrestrial services from further invasion by mobile operators, but has conceded that compromise is possible and may be necessary. The issues have been put top of the agenda for the FORECAST’13 seminar in November, an annual event staged at the EBU’s headquarters in Geneva. The EBU noted that successive World Radiocommunication Conferences (WRC) have either reduced or threatened the spectrum available for broadcasting in Europe.

Firstly, the 800MHz was cleared in Europe for mobile telecommunications and then, as a result of the most recent WRC-12 conference early last year, the 700MHz band is likely to go the same way in many countries. The EBU argues that any further erosion would significantly constrain the ability of broadcasters to continue offering public services with near universal coverage, and would also jeopardize the competitiveness of DTT as a distribution platform.

The EBU noted that its Director General Ingrid Deltenre will attempt to whip up fervor among its members by reminding them what is at stake over spectrum. Yet on the second day of the seminar, the EBU will reflect its conciliatory side by focusing on hybrid networks and discussing their potential to combine the advantages of broadcast and mobile unicast delivery, in effect uniting cellular and digital terrestrial services. This would require collaboration between the mobile and broadcast communities which so far has been lacking, leading towards the next WRC conference in 2015 bringing the camps together to negotiate a joint approach to spectrum.

This would seem a logical step, building on well-established movements towards convergence between broadcasting and fixed line IP communications via hybrid initiatives such as HbbTV. There is little doubt such convergence will extend to wireless spectrum but the challenge for broadcasters lies in staying at the center of the action and not being marginalized by the communications industry.