Spectrum

The amount of usable spectrum is limited. Broadcasters need to ensure that adequate radio spectrum is allocated to them and that it is carefully managed and efficiently used.

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.

Indispensable resource

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.

Limited resource

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. 

EBU Strategic Programme on Spectrum

  • It defines EBU’s positions on spectrum management and regulation from a long term strategic point of view.
  • It identifies, formulates and then represents EBU members’ interest in relevant regulatory bodies and at influential occasions.
  • It organises and supervises EBU collective activities in spectrum management in three areas:
    • Allocation and Regulation: it ensures that adequate amount of spectrum is allocated, within the international regulatory framework, to the diverse services used by broadcasters to produce and deliver television and radio content. It includes preparations for the ITU WRCs (World Radiocommunication Conference) and contributions to the CEPT and the European Commission on regulatory issues related to spectrum management. See also PMSE page.
    • Usage: it helps EBU Members to implement the latest  frequency and network planning technologies for broadcasting services; it also produces coexistence studies of broadcasting with other services sharing the same spectrum (e.g. LTE, PPDR). See also SPT page.
    • Service Protection: it ensures broadcasting service protection from possible threats arising from all aspects of EMC (electromagnetic compatibility), including changes to the electromagnetic environment.  See also EIC page.
  • It provides strategic advice and contributions to the EBU Public Affairs and Communications and Legal Departments in relation to spectrum management and regulation.
  • It organises events (workshops, seminars, etc.) to inform and consult with Members and other relevant parties on specific topics.

 

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Join us

If you are interested in Spectrum, join our group on this topic and participate in the discussions. Some restrictions may apply. 

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.

Terrestrial Radio

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.

Satellite

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

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 Future 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 next ones will be held in 2019 and then in 2023.

WRC-19

The agenda for WRC-19 contains some items of interest to broadcasters. These are identified and progress is 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 current frequency bands under study are 24.25-27.5 GHz, 31.8-33.4 GHz,37-40.5 GHz, 40.5-43.5 GHz and 45.5-47.2 GHz, 47.2-50.2 GHz, 50.4-52.6 GHz, 66-76 GHz and 81-86 GHz. None of the bands are currently used by broadcasters. The only one allocated to the broadcasting and broadcasting satellite services is the 40.5-42.5 GHz.
  • 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. This can be used at WRC-19 to extend the allocations to the Mobile Service in the 600 MHz, in particular in Region 2 (the 'Americas').
  • Agenda item 9.1.6: studies concerning Wireless Power Transmission (WPT) for electric vehicles. WPT might be deployed in frequency bands allocated to Broadcasting services, i.e. the LF and MF bands. Broadcasting services need to be protected from interference from WPT and WPT should not impose protection constraints to broadcasting services.
  • Agenda Item 10: to define preliminary agenda items for WRC-23. Current WRC-23 AI 2.5 proposes 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 EBU has developed a position paper on Wireless Visual Media Distribution as well as the World Broadcasting Union a position on UHF spectrum allocation for Broadcasting.

WRC-23

The final agenda for WRC-23 will be defined by WRC-19 (as per Agenda Item 10). In addition to the review of the spectrum use and spectrum needs of existing services in the frequency band 470-960 MHz in Region 1 there might be other items that also relate to broadcasting services. EBU will also carefully watch the WRC-23 Agenda Items.

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14 Feb 2019

EBU, Geneva

Building on the work of the first Radio Archive Workshop, held in February 2018, we are again hosting the event centred around radio archives for archivists, technologists and content creators.

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BroadThinking is the seminar where broadcast meets broadband and a key event for anyone interested in 5G, CDNs, streaming technology, interactivity and more.

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