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UHF Spectrum: Broadcasting Versus Broadband in Europe

Broadcasters in the U.S. aren't the only ones facing competition from wireless broadband for their UHF spectrum. In many countries, spectrum above 700 MHz is still being used for broadcasting, but regulators in Europe and the United Kingdom are preparing to move broadcasters out of that spectrum.

A recent report by the Electronic Communications Committee (ECC) of the European Conference of Postal and Telecommunications Administrations (CEPT), the leading regulatory body in the field of electronic communication in Europe, outlined principles for future use of UHF frequencies, focusing on the 470-684 MHz band. The report recognized that this frequency band is essential for the delivery of audio-visual services and concluded that more flexibility may be needed in the regulatory environment to allow for varied use of the band in different countries that require it.

EBU's Director of Technology, Simon Fell, said, “We are pleased that the new ECC Report 224 clearly demonstrates the importance of the UHF band for the provision of free-to-air TV services and the vital role of the terrestrial broadcasting platform (DTT) in Europe. We trust that the European spectrum regulators will ensure a sufficient amount of radio spectrum to remain available for DTT in the forseeable future.”

The CEPT report on the Nov. 25-28 ECC Plenary Meeting notes that “The ECC is paving the way for the future use of the 700 MHz band for mobile, and a policy debate is also taking place at the EU level on a possible deadline to allocate the bands to mobile. However, even if such a move were agreed it would inevitably take time to become fully effective, given the differences of the market conditions across the EU28, and the time that would be taken to negotiate and complete the numerous rearrangements of television services which currently occupy these frequencies. “ It adds, “The ECC Decision enables those countries that need to implement WBB to move ahead with the frequency coordination negotiations with neighbouring countries, and the associated reengineering of broadcast networks, based on the knowledge of the generic technical conditions which would apply to the mobile licences when awarded.”

The EBU news release said, “The ECC approved Report 224 on a 'Long term vision for the UHF broadcasting band', and this was the main outcome of the CEPT study of the future use of UHF frequencies, with a focus on the 470-694 MHz band. This report is consistent with the report by Pascal Lamy and the draft RSPG Opinion on a long-term strategy for the future use of the UHF band (470-790 MHz) in the European Union. These are some of the key documents in the European preparations for the WRC-15 and the next Radio Spectrum Policy Programme.”

For more on the Lamy report, see EC Outlines Plans to Shift UHF TV Spectrum to Wireless Broadband - Lamy report suggests steps to fulfill Digital Agenda for Europe.