Last year’s discussions on spectrum focused on the pressure from mobile services to gain further access to the UHF band. At the time, mobile services did not show an interest for the lower band (the VHF band) as the technical characteristics of the UHF band offered them an optimum balance between coverage achieved and antenna size. Therefore, the deployment of digital radio (T-DAB) in Band III, part of the VHF band, was not under threat.
However, since the switchover to digital radio has taken longer in many European countries, the idea that Band III could be used for DTT in replacement of UHF frequencies which may no longer be available in the UHF band has risen in popularity. The EBU has issued a guide which explains why Band III cannot replace these frequencies:
- The spectrum in Band III is already in use in most of European countries for digital audio broadcasting, digital television, radio-microphones and other non-broadcasting services;
- The amount of spectrum in Band III, 56 MHz, is small compared with the spectrum planned for DTT in the UHF band. 392 MHz were planned in GE06 and 320 MHz are currently allocated to DTT after the release of the 800 MHz band. Therefore, a substantial compensation of lost UHF-Spectrum is not viable;
- Many European countries do not transmit TV signals in Band III. Antennas have been optimised accordingly to work on the UHF band only. Starting television services in Band III would require re-adapting antennas to tune to Band III. This would have a significant financial impact and would be very disruptive for users. The additional effort is disproportional to the hypothetical achievable benefit.
Digital radio is now growing rapidly in many European countries and needs the frequencies in Band III to expand in other countries. It is crucial that regulators understand that Band III cannot compensate for a reduction of UHF spectrum available for DTT. Broadcasters need to get involved in their country discussions on spectrum allocations and brief their national regulators. EBU can provide additional briefing documents with up-to-date information ahead of their preparatory meetings.