Media services will continue to be delivered over digital terrestrial broadcast (DTT) until well after 2030. This was one of the conclusions that could be drawn from the European Commission’s workshop on the use of the sub-700MHz UHF band, held on 30 March 2022. In Europe and beyond, DTT services are located on the sub-700MHz UHF band – the only globally harmonised band used by media services around the world.
As Europe prepares for a crucial conference that coordinates the use of spectrum around the globe – the ITU World Radiocommunication Conference 2023 (WRC-23) – the European Commission held a workshop where consultants LS Telcom and VVA presented initial findings of their study into the developments in the use of the 470-694MHz frequency range. The Commission intends to use this study to help fulfil its reporting task in relation to the sub-700 MHz band under Article 7 of the Decision on the UHF band and in eventual EU policy making decisions beyond 2030.
The UHF-band is contested, with mobile network operators wishing to absorb a portion for their commercial services. Importantly, Europe is already ahead of the rest of the world in terms of the amount of spectrum available to the mobile services below 1 GHz, and this is without considering a potential mobile allocation within the sub-700 MHz band.
The EBU and other stakeholders contributed both to the study and as far as possible to the event itself. During the workshop, the EBU, together with CIRCOM (the Association of Regional Public Service Television in Europe) and the stakeholders united in the Wider Spectrum Group, reiterated the view that Europe should adopt a 'No Change' position for the UHF band at the WRC-23, given the importance of the UHF band for the European broadcasting, creative and content sectors.
The evidence presented during the workshop strongly indicates that DTT will continue to be relevant in a number of EU member states long after 2030, in particular for the distribution of public service media content. It was acknowledged that the use of DTT varies considerably across Europe. But as a distribution platform that continues to evolve in terms of service quality and spectrum efficiency – with the possibility to deploy 5G Broadcast alongside DVB-T2 without changing the current regulation – DTT remains highly attractive to the European media sector.
The sub-700 MHz band is also currently shared with a number of wireless production technologies. At the European Commission’s workshop, PMSE (Program Making and Special Events) representatives made it clear that content production and live performances are healthy, vibrant, and growing sectors which are main sources of content for broadcasting as well as broadband services.
Particularly for audio content production tools there is no viable alternative to the UHF band. PMSE and DTT have been successfully sharing the UHF band for many decades; However, sharing this frequency range with mobile networks is not a viable option according to the EBU and other studies that are supported by real life observations in the 700 MHz and the 800 MHz bands.