EBU Members and other broadcasters need radiofrequency spectrum, both to reach our audiences and to produce the content that we distribute. To support the production and distribution of public service media in the short, medium and long term, the EBU aims to protect frequency rights, define policies and regulatory frameworks related to the use of spectrum, and advance expertise on emerging broadcast technologies and network planning.
In practical terms, our work involves studying the impact of new technologies, developing EBU positions on behalf of our Members, and representing those positions in the relevant forums. These activities take place under the EBU's Strategic Programme on Spectrum, in close collaboration with the EBU's Legal and Policy teams.
Spectrum is a precious resource needed to broadcast television and radio programmes. Mobile telecommunications, Wi-Fi and satellite communications also rely on spectrum to deliver their services. Decisions on how spectrum is allocated and used directly impact citizens’ access to essential media platforms such as television, radio and the internet.
What is spectrum?
Spectrum – or radiofrequency spectrum – is the range of radio frequencies used to transmit data wirelessly. It ranges from 9 kilohertz (kHz) to 3,000 gigahertz (GHz), divided into different bands. For public service media, some of these bands are of particular interest and importance:
- UHF: the spectrum from 470 to 694 MHz, known as the sub-700 MHz band, is used by almost all countries to provide free-to-air digital terrestrial television (DTT) services to their audiences. This is also a key band for wireless production systems such as radio microphones and talkback systems (collectively referred to as PMSE, standing for programme making and special events). UHF spectrum is ideally suited for both of these applications; and they have shared the use of the spectrum for many decades.
- C-band: the frequency range 3,400 to 4,200 MHz is used by broadcasters for programme contribution and distribution (including, in some countries, the backbone distribution network for DTT networks), nationally, regionally and globally. One of the main characteristics of this band is its resilience to heavy rainfall compared to higher satellite bands, making the band essential in tropical areas in Africa, America and Asia.
- Ku-band: the frequency range from 10.7 to 11.7 GHz is the core band for direct-to-home (DTH) satellite distribution of radio and television services. Thousands of services are distributed all over the world via Ku-band. The band is also used for satellite news gathering for television contribution and occasional-use services, in particular in those regions of the world less affected by heavy rain periods.
Spectrum is thus an indispensible resource for public service media, essential to both the production and distribution of content. A platform like DTT cannot exist without sufficient UHF spectrum, nor can PSME systems function. This is why the EBU prioritizes the protection of all of the above spectrum bands for its Members.
The EBU and WRC-23
The upcoming 2023 World Radiocommunications Conference (WRC-23) will consider revising the regulations that deal with the sub-700 MHz band, a decision that would impact greatly on which services use this band in the future. The EBU is actively advocating that there be no change to those regulations (WRC-23 agenda item 1.5), which would represent the best outcome for audiences and public service media.
Today, DTT in the UHF band provides public as well as commercial value to society and it, alongside PMSE, will remain important in many countries for a long time. DTT is designed to be very resilient, and it is therefore indispensable in cases of emergency or natural disaster to provide vital information to the population at any time.
The EBU believes that maximizing public value and promoting innovation in the UHF band requires the regulatory stability provided by the current regulation. Indeed, introducing regulatory changes at this time would jeopardise the public and commercial value that DTT and PMSE services currently deliver in the UHF band, and they would discourage the innovation and investments required to retain and increase this value in the future.
The EBU therefore supports a position of ‘no change’ to the Radio Regulations under WRC-23 agenda item 1.5. This position is explained in more detail in this White Paper.
The primary goals of the Strategic Programme on Spectrum are:
- Promote Members’ interests in preparatory work for WRC-23 agenda item 1.5 (on the UHF band), through cooperation with the global broadcast community, and engaging with ITU, EU and CEPT. This includes contributing to spectrum use and requirement forecasts for DTT and PMSE, as well as to sharing studies and regulatory options.
- Promote Members’ interests in other WRC-23 agenda items as required, through cooperation with the global broadcast community, and engaging with administrations from Europe, and more widely where appropriate.
- Work to protect rights to satellite frequencies in order to secure direct-to-home (DTH) and satellite news gathering (SNG) services.
- Assess the implications of electromagnetic interference to broadcasters and promote and enforce protection against them (e.g. through the development and approval of standards) to ensure quality of reception of broadcasting services at user premises. Provide suitable advice to Members on RF hazard issues with regards to human exposure and safety, including methods of measurement.
- Provide EBU Members with guidance on system, network planning and spectrum aspects of 5G Broadcast deployment, as well as on other broadcast technologies (e.g. DAB, DVB-T/T2) as needed. Study improvement of current coverage planning predictions and monitor the quality of existing prediction technologies.
- Gather and analyse information from Members about the existing and predicted use of PMSE, and promote Members’ interests in relevant regulatory groups.
- Influence regulatory and standardization organisations on sustainability of broadcast distribution.
A comprehensive list of the output documents from the Strategic Programme on Spectrum and its project groups can be accessed on the workspace. The table provides the title of each document, the group where it was developed and the forum or body to which it was submitted.
Below is a list of selected high-profile deliverables of SP Spectrum and its groups (green indicates the deliverable has already been delivered).
- EBU Tech Report 063 - 5G Broadcast Network Planning and Evaluation (Q3 2021)
- EBU Tech Report 064 - Compatibility between 5G Broadcast and other DTT systems in the sub-700 MHz band (Q3 2021)
- EBU Tech Report 066 - Review of the ICNIRP Guidelines for Limiting Exposure to Non-Ionizing Radiation from 100 kHz to 300 GHz (Q4 2021)
- EBU white paper - 'No Change' at WRC-23 maximizes public value and innovation in the UHF band (Q4 2021)
- Sessions on UHF and C-band spectrum at FORECAST (Q4 2021)
- Webinar: The EBU's WRC-23 preparations and next steps (Q4 2021)
The work of the Strategic Programme on spectrum is carried out through a series of groups under the umbrella of the SP.
- Electromagnetic Interference and Compatibility (EIC)
- Programme Making and Special Events (PMSE)
- Broadcast Coordination Group on Spectrum (BC)
Communities of practice
- DTT Promotion & Monitoring – Joint initiative with the DVB Project and Broadcast Networks Europe
- Sharing and Planning of Terrestrial Services (SPT) – a collaborative project group cochaired by the EBU and Broadcast Networks Europe.
- Matlab spectrum codebase – development of a Matlab codebase to support sharing studies and broadcast network planning.