Two views on 700MHz band at WRC-12
07 February 2012
As the WRC-12 conference continues at the ITU in Geneva, one of the key developments has been the emergence of a proposal to take further spectrum currently allocated for broadcasting and make it available for mobile services. The proposal, supported separately by the Arab and African regional administrations, asks ITU members to allocate the 700MHz band to mobile services.
An agreement reached at the previous WRC conference, in 2007, reallocated the 800MHz band from broadcasting to mobile services, in what became known as the first digital dividend. The original agenda for WRC-12 did not include any proposal for a second digital dividend, so the new proposal has been a particular talking point.
Such a decision would cause considerable problems in Europe, where the 700MHz band is heavily used for terrestrial broadcasting with, in many cases, long-term licensing arrangements in place. Broadcasters also consider this band as being crucial to the future development of innovative new terrestrial services. The proposal to reallocate the 700MHz band to mobile services is opposed by the European administrations, represented by CEPT, and also by the RCC group of countries, which is the other grouping covered by ITU Region 1.
The situation in Africa and in the Arab states is quite different, with the 700MHz band being relatively under-used. Few countries have made the transition from analogue to digital terrestrial broadcasting; and when they do they are likely to use DVB-T2, which will allow for very efficient use of spectrum (compared to DVB-T). Furthermore, the fixed telecommunications networks in these regions are less developed and hence mobile services take on a greater relative importance. Above all, many African and Arab countries use already the 800MHz band for mobile services related to governmental applications and therefore cannot release them for IMT (International Mobile Telecommunications) applications. For these reasons the proposal from Arab and African administrations is in fact a solution for them to have their “first” digital dividend.
Discussions are continuing at the conference with a view to finding a compromise that can satisfy the requirements of all stakeholders. Broadcasters are observing the discussions carefully.
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