The EBU has today expressed concerns as the European Commission unveils its proposals for the future of UHF spectrum. These proposals place a heavy burden on broadcasters currently investing and innovating on the Digital Terrestrial Television (DTT) platform in UHF.
EBU Head of European Affairs Nicola Frank said: “Moving DTT services out of the 700MHz band by 2020 is a major challenge, in particular for those Member States where DTT is the main platform to receive television. In Europe, 250 million people receive their television services through DTT.”
“Broadcasters will need to make costly changes to their infrastructure. Member states should clearly be able to provide for compensation for both consumers and broadcasters in order to cater for the investment needed to implement the change.”
Furthermore, by introducing a so-called ‘flexibility option’ to deploy alternative technologies in the sub-700 MHz band, the European Commission is opting for something which has not yet been validated by technical studies and for which there is no proven market demand.”
Broadcasters welcomed the ’20-25-30’ conclusions to the 2014 High Level Group of Spectrum chaired by Pascal Lamy because it set a flexible deadline for transition of DTT out of the 700 MHz band and required sub-700 MHz frequencies to continue being used for TV broadcasting until 2030, with a review planned in 2025.
However in its proposal, the European Commission has set a strict deadline for clearing the 700 MHz band from DTT by 2020, taking away the flexibility broadcasters required in some Member States.
The Commission’s strategy also fails to mention any compensatory measures for broadcasters, who will need to overhaul infrastructure or envisage cutting away certain services. In this climate, innovation and new channels on the Digital Terrestrial Television platform will be undermined.
While the proposal does aim to preserve the sub-700 MHz UHF for digital broadcasting, as decided by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) in November 2015, the European Commission wants to introduce a ‘flexibility option’, offering other services access to these bands under certain circumstances.
The EBU shares the view in the Lamy report that the flexibility option should be carefully studied and tested beforehand and be considered only if compatible with broadcasting in the Member State where it is envisaged and clearly backed by market demand.
The European Commission UHF Spectrum Strategy, unveiled on 2 February, will now be examined separately by the European Parliament and the EU Member States and will become law once these two bodies agree on the same text. This process could last from a few months to more than one year.