The scope of the Strategic Programme on Spectrum comprises the protection of frequency rights, definition of policies and regulatory frameworks and broadcast network planning aspects to support the success of media services in the short, medium and long term.
The current goals (see below) will be reviewed beginning of 2020:
- Represent Members’ interests at WRC-19 including agenda preparations for WRC-2023 (including usage forecasts in relation to the Lamy report).
- Protect rights to satellite frequencies to secure PSM reach and satellite newsgathering (SNG) services
- Identify sources of electromagnetic interference and promote and enforce protection against them
- Provide EBU members with guidance on eMBMS network planning and spectrum aspects of eMBMS deployment
The detailed list of deliverables of the Strategic Programme on Spectrum will be reviewed beginning of 2020 and will be incooporated in the 2019-2021 workplan.
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. At first glance, discussions on dividing up the use of spectrum seem technical and distant from our everyday lives. However, proper spectrum allocation directly impacts citizens’ access to essential media platforms such as TV, radio and the internet.
Spectrum – or radio spectrum - is the range of electromagnetic radio frequencies used to transmit data wirelessly, it ranges from 9 kilohertz (kHz) to 3000 Gigahertz (GHz) divided into different bands. For public broadcasters it represents the necessary vehicle to broadcast programmes, for example a platform like DTT can not exist if not enough spectrum is allocated for its service.
Each service in this domain uses a portion of the spectrum frequencies to work, for example Digital Audio Broadcasting relies exclusively on the VHF band III (174 MHz – 230 MHz). A large and growing number of services, ranging from broadcasting, different wireless technologies such as mobile, Wi-Fi etc. is demanding for more spectrum. Being limited, releasing portions of spectrum in favour of a service would necessarily mean deprive another of it.
Co-existence of services
In the perspective of multiple services using the same scarce resource, efficient use of spectrum and interference free reception become vital. The coexistance between the mobile service and DTT in adjacent bands is an example.
Added value from broadcasters to the community
Economic, social and cultural benefits are intertwined with the allocation of spectrum for broadcasters. Answers to consumer demands, content diversity and universality are continuously delivered by broadcasters via secure investments and innovation.
Public Service Media (PSM) make their content as widely available as possible on all devices and platforms (Internet, cable, satellite, and broadcast). Despite the growing media consumption over broadband platforms, linear consumption remains stable with a gap between age groups. And even in countries where on-demand consumption is main stream, live broadcasting still dominates.
Digital Terrestrial Television
DTT is the most efficient means of distributing linear TV to a mass audience, offering affordable, convenient and universal access to TV. Although its penetration differs from country to country, it is the most widespread platform for TV reception (main plus secondary) in the EU, reaching over 100 Million households – 250 million viewers in the EU. DTT is also a key enabler of the sustainable funding of national and local content.
The 470-694 MHz band is the only UHF spectrum harmonised for DTT. The GE06 Agreement planned the whole 470-862 MHz band for DTT with the DVB-T/T2 standard. Subsequently the 790-862 MHz band (the '800 MHz') was allocated to Mobile Services and has been released accross Europe from DTT. WRC-15 also allocated the 694-790 MHz to Mobile Services; in the EU countries broadcasters have to relase the band by 2020 (2022 at the latest). Some countries are also using parts of the VHF Band III (174-230 MHz) for DTT.
See also the pages dedicated to DTT.
While additional radio user experiences can be realised using a broadband connection, the vast majority of all radio listening across Europe is still done using broadcast. Broadcast delivery is currently the most appropriate choice to large-scale delivery of radio services in order to reach mass populations (https://tech.ebu.ch/publications/tr_2017_radio), and to enable Public Service Media to fulfil its obligations on coverage.
Analogue broadcasting still predominates, with AM transmissions in SW (3000 kHz to 30 MHz), MW (300 to 3000 kHz), LW (30 to 300 kHz) and FM transmissions in VHF (87.5-108 MHz). The number of radio services broadcasting in FM is by far the largest number, making up 11 827 of the total 12 299 transmissions in the EBU area.
In many countries, the FM band is very crowded, if not full, meaning that innovation in radio services is difficult. One of the major benefits of Digital Broadcast is that is more spectrally efficient, and therefore allows for a far greater number of services to be implemented.
Digital Broadcast in Europe is largely represented by DAB/DAB+, both names associated with the same system (Eureka147) but using different audio codecs. This is a wideband system, using spectrum within Band III (174 to 230 MHz).
Some broadcasters also use DRM (Digital Radio Mondiale) in the AM bands, for international services.
See also the pages dedicated to Radio.
Distribution of linear audiovisual content via satellite remains very efficient for wide area coverage. It is the primary main reception mode in Europe for Direct-to-home (DTH) reception but, again, there are many differences from country to country. Broadcasters also use satellite platforms for contribution links and for the distribution of their international programmes.
The Ku band (around 11 GHz-downlink/14 GHz-uplink) is widely used for DTH accross Europe as well as the Ka band (around 18-20 GHz-downlink/27.5-31 GHz-uplink) by some Members. Different Fixed Satellite Services bands are used for contribution links by EBU Members including the C-Band (3.4-4.2 GHz-downlink). DVB-S/S2 standards are widely used.
Mobile broadband networks are becoming increasingly important for the distribution of audiovisual media services. However, they are not designed for a cost efficient delivery of media content, especially linear, to mass audiences and they currently do not support key PSM requirements (e.g. free-to-air, universality, reliability). Recent mobile standards such as 3GPP Release 14 seek to address broadcaster's requirements although the implementation of the new features in mobile networks will be subject to commercial viability. 5G developments are ongoing and there are many issues still to be addressed including technical, market related and regulatory aspects. Nevertheless, support for production and a large scale distribution of audiovisual content are considered to be some of the key 5G applications and 5G may become an important technology for EBU members in the future. Further information, see Distribution.
Both 4G/LTE and 5G require access to different spectrum bands, both high frequency bands for capacity and lower frequency bands to provide wide area and indoor coverage. In Europe, spectrum allocations for mobile broadband include the 800 MHz, 900 MHz, 1.5 GHz, 1.8 GHz, 2.1 GHz, 2.3 GHz, 2.6 GHz and 3.6 GHz bands. These frequency bands are used/planned for 3G, 4G, and to a lesser extent for 2G networks. The 700 MHz band is in the process of being cleared from DTT to be used for mobile services after 2020 accross the EU.
With regard to spectrum for 5G, WRC-19 is addressing frequency bands above 24 GHz. In Europe, the 3.6 GHz band (3400-3800 MHz) will be the primary band to bring the necessary capacity requirements; it will be completed with the 26 GHz band (24.25-27.5 GHz), the pioneer band above 24 GHz in Europe. The 700 MHz band has also been identified as a 5G band to provide coverage. It is assumed that in the future all frequency bands allocated to the mobile service could be used for 5G.
A World Radiocommunications Conference (WRC) is empowered by the ITU Constitution to change the Radio Regulations (RR) – the international treaty that defines how radio spectrum is used around the world. They are held every three to four years, and the last one was held in November 2019 and then in 2023.
The agenda for WRC-19 contained some items of interest to broadcasters. These were identified and progress was followed by the Strategic Programme on Spectrum:
- Agenda Item 1.13: to consider additional spectrum allocations to the mobile service on a primary basis above 6 GHz. The conference agreed global IMT identification in the 24.25-27.5 GHz, 37-40.5 GHz, 40.5-43.5 GHz and 66-71 GHz bands. The 40.5-42.5 GHz band is also allocated to the broadcasting and broadcasting satellite services but it is not used by broadcasters and there are not future plans of use. The results were in line with EBU position.
- Agenda Item 8: to delete country names from existing footnotes. During the last two WRCs, it has been possible to also add country names to footnotes. At WRC-19, only one country, Guatemala, joined the 600 MHz footnote in Region 2 (the 'Americas') wich allows IMT use in this band currently used by digital terrestrial TV (DTT). The lack of interest by the mobile community in this band was a good news for the broadcast community.
- Agenda item 9.1.6: studies concerning Wireless Power Transmission (WPT) for electric vehicles. Broadcasting services need to be protected from interference from WPT and WPT should not impose protection constraints to broadcasting services. No changes to the Radio Regulations were agreed and studies will continue. The results were in line with EBU position.
- Agenda Item 10: to define preliminary agenda items for WRC-23:
- WRC-19 confirmed without any changes the preliminary WRC-23 agenda item proposing to review the spectrum use and spectrum needs of existing services in the frequency band 470-960 MHz in Region 1. The 470-694 MHz is the unique UHF spectrum for DTT harmonised worldwide and remains essential for current and future deployment of television systems globally.
- The agenda item on future spectrum bands for IMT does not include the upper part of the C-Band, 3.8-4.2 GHz, highly used for contribution and distribution of international channels.
This was in line with EBU position.
PREPARATIONS FOR WRC-23
A Special WRC-19/23 Review Workshop will be held on 21 January 2020. The objective of this workshop is to bring together the broadcast community to review the outcome of WRC-19, to identify common actions between the different stakeholders and to define an associated road map of activities.