The changes are expected to be implemented by 2022.
UK - Ofcom has revealed plans to make radio spectrum in the 700MHz band available for mobile data use, as operators of mobile services predict a major increase in mobile data use in the coming years. Digital Terrestrial Television (DTT) services and the PMSE (Programme Making & Special Events) sector, which currently use parts of the 700MHz band, will be moved to other frequencies. The changes are expected to be implemented by 2022, but could be could be in place up to two years earlier.

The implication for PMSE users is that equipment which operates exclusively in the 700MHz band will become obsolete and will have to be replaced, as will "a proportion of equipment that has a tuning range which extends both above and below 694MHz" (i.e. within and immediately below the 700MHz band) because the reduction in the equipment's usable tuning range may be sufficient to render the equipment unfit for its intended purpose, and "a proportion of equipment that operates in the 470MHz-694MHz tuning range and is used in a fixed location" because changes to the DTT frequencies will affect the interleaved spectrum available in some areas. Ofcom estimates the cost of this replacement at between £13m-21m (at Net Present Value) if change of use of the 700MHz band happens at the start of 2022" and between £15m-26m if the change happens in 2020.

Ofcom's statement, published today, says: "Broadcasting and PMSE stakeholders (including BEIRG, Digital UK, and Arqiva) argued strongly in their responses to our consultation that neither existing users of the 700MHz band nor consumers should bear any of the costs of the change. Rather, they argued that either Government or the MNOs should pay for the change." However, the question of funding "remains for Government to decide".

Ofcom says it aims to ensure PMSE users have access to sufficient spectrum following the change. Its statement says: "We intend to ensure that the change occurs in a way that safeguards the important benefits that DTT and PMSE services deliver to citizens and consumers. The document explains how it will be possible to make the 700MHz band available for mobile data use without compromising the benefits provided by DTT or PMSE, and without causing significant disruption to viewers. Viewers will not need to take any action as a result of this change until around 2019. For the vast majority of TV viewers the only impact of this decision will be that they need to retune their televisions."

"Our objective is to make the band available for mobile by the start of 2022 and sooner if possible. Given the substantial amount of effort that will be required to give effect to this decision, we will begin implementation work immediately. There will be a number of strands to our work on implementation, involving significant engagement with DTT providers, PMSE stakeholders, Government and representatives of TV viewers. We are also discussing the question of public funding with Government."

The full document can be viewed HERE.

For more information on BEIRG, visit the web address below.

(Lee Baldock)

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