Skip to main content

Ofcom Updates U.K. Position on WRC-15 Issues, Will Seek to Protect UHF TV

U.K. telecom regulator Ofcom released an update on UK preparations for the World Radiocommunication Conference 2015 (WRC-15) taking place Nov. 2-27 in Geneva. In the update released January 6, Ofcom states, “One of the most difficult and contentious issues to be addressed at WRC-15 concerns the future availability of spectrum for mobile broadband and Wi-Fi services.” Ofcom intends to support use of the 700 MHz spectrum for IMT (International Mobile Telecommunications) but will oppose a co-primary mobile allocation for the 470-694 MHz band.

This is good news for U.K. TV broadcasters, at least temporarily. Ofcom said “we do not currently expect full switch off of DTT (Digital Terrestrial Television) until post 2030, unless there were to be a significant policy intervention to support a more aggressive timetable for change. Added to this is our recognition that the on-going importance of DTT and barriers associated to IPTV availability and take up could make DTT switch-off unlikely until at least 2030.” Ofcom acknowledged comments pointing out the benefit of flexibility for the 470-694 MHz over the long term but said Ofcom wants to “ensure that regulatory decisions do not create uncertainty and risk holding back investment.”

Another WRC-15 item addressed in the update was modification of coordinated universal time (UTC), including potential elimination of leap seconds. Ofcom said all responses to its consultation indicated a preference to retain UTC as currently defined (with leap seconds). Ofcom states, “We anticipate that Government will continue to strongly support the retention of the leap second and this is the position we expect to take into WRC-15. This is expected to continue to be a high priority and potentially very difficult issue for the UK at WRC-15.”

Regarding other frequency bands, Ofcom said it does not expect to support a mobile allocation or IMT identification in the 5925-6425 MHz band currently used for C-band satellite uplinks. It does intend to support 3400-3800 MHz (overlapping C-band downlink spectrum) for IMT identification and, regarding the 3800-4200 MHz spectrum said “we do not see benefit in pursuing this band for identification at WRC-15. We will however keep this position under review and believe that there is benefit in continuing studies on the co-existence between the fixed-satellite service and mobile broadband in this band. In particular we believe that there could be benefit in including this band on the Agenda of a future Conference.”

Ofcom confirmed its continued support for a future Agenda Item at WRC-19 on the availability of spectrum above 6 GHz for mobile broadband, noting “Such spectrum is likely to be particularly useful for the next generation of mobile services (known as 5G).”

The update provides a clear outline of the UK government's position on the WRC-15 agenda items. Similar preparatory work is going on in the U.S. I've covered some of the decisions in previous articles. However, the releases from the FCC's WRC-15 advisory committees are much more difficult to understand than the clearly stated, easy to read Ofcom update. Before the U.S. government's WRC-15 positions are finalized, it would be nice if they would release a summary similar to the Ofcom document and give all interested parties an opportunity to comment on it.