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Europe knickers twisted on spectrum


Published: 24 February, 2012


Europe is usually so neat and tidy when it comes to its spectrum policy. Take for instance the clever way that it has nationwide spectrum holdings so that national broadcast networks are all SFN networks, easier and cheaper to deploy than say US networks. But it has got itself into a mess over cellular allocations and it will have a real problem extracting itself.

At the World Radiocommunication Conference (WRC-12) last week, delegates from African and Middle Eastern countries outvoted their partners in Europe to allow a second digital dividend in region 1, which also includes all of Europe, Russia, Africa and Asia, west of the Persian Gulf.

The last digital dividend was created by TV broadcasters going digital and fitting into much smaller parts of the spectrum, so spectrum could be sold off to cellcos. But in other parts of region 1, where they have far less TV, they want even more spectrum for mobile broadband, hence the move to vote for a second slice.

The first dividend was from 790-862MHz, and the second will be in the region adjacent to this from 694 to 790 MHz. The only olive branch for European DTT operators is that it will not take place until after the next conference in 2015, when the technical details will be discussed. So the US is not the only place where broadcasters are being herded into smaller and smaller corrals.

The last digital dividend didn't get signed off until this meeting, because Romania and the Ukraine were holding out and have only just signed up.

The issue is most acute for the UK, Spain, France, Portugal and Italy, because in these countries digital terrestrial is the primary medium for transmitting free to air services.

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