In a newly published Opinion, the RSPG recommends that broadcast and PMSE be given priority in the UHF Band until at least 2030, and that the EU coordinate this recommendation with the national administrations in the European Council in preparation for a crucial vote at the World Radiocommunication Conference (WRC-23) next year.
The Radio Spectrum Policy Group of the EU adopted its new Opinion on WRC-23 on 9 December 2022. WRC-23 could be a watershed moment for the use of the UHF spectrum, with mobile network operators hoping to exploit more of it. However, like others, this RSPG Opinion finds the socio-economic benefits of free-to-air broadcast and wireless content production equipment (‘Programme Making and Special Events’, PMSE) in the UHF-band to outweigh those of alternative potential uses at this time.
The RSPG Opinion does point out that there are diverging opinions among some EU member states, finding that “many […] do not see the need to adopt regulatory actions at this moment (No Change at WRC-23, with a possible Agenda Item for WRC-27 or WRC-31) and that several other Member States find it necessary to adopt regulatory actions (co-primary allocation to mobile, except aeronautical mobile, service which could become effective at a later stage (e.g. 31.12.2030)).”
This is consistent with the outcome of the ITU-R Task Group 6/1 where a large majority of administrations in the ITU Region 1 indicated the need to retain the sub-700 MHz band for broadcasting and PMSE, and only a small number of administrations advocated in favour of a mobile allocation.
The recently published ‘Study on the use of the sub-700 MHz band (470-694)’, carried out by LS telcom and VVA for the European Commission, provided further evidence that this frequency band will remain essential for terrestrial TV and PMSE services for the foreseeable future.
In the EBU's view the available evidence in the abovementioned studies and the positioning of the EU Member States reflected in the RSPG Opinion merit an EU position in support of 'No Change' at the WRC-23.
However, the RSPG has identified, as “a potential compromise solution to be recommended as an EU position”, a secondary allocation to the mobile service at WRC-23, with an agenda item at WRC-31 “to consider a possible upgrade of the secondary mobile allocation”.
The full impact of such a solution on DTT and PMSE needs to be studied. A preliminary assessment indicates that a secondary allocation to the mobile service would retain priority to broadcasting and PMSE in the sub-700 MHz band and provide an opportunity for these services to continue to evolve and innovate.
At the same time, such a regulatory solution would allow those administrations that do not need the whole range 470-694 MHz for DTT and PMSE to use some of this spectrum for other purposes on a national basis, bearing in mind that coexistence between mobile services and terrestrial broadcasting remains a challenge.
The WRC-31 might be the right time for a future review of the technological and market developments in the sub-700 MHz band. However, a possible WRC-31 agenda item shall be formulated in such a way as to allow a continuation of DTT and PMSE in the sub-700 MHz band beyond 2030 in those countries where this is required.