The European Commission (EC) has published the first set of tools towards a harmonised use of the Digital Dividend in the European Union. It includes a so-called 'Recommendation' and a 'Communication'. The EC recommends Member States to take all necessary measures to switch off terrestrial analogue television by 1 January 2012 and to support regulatory efforts towards harmonised conditions for the 790-862 MHz sub-band for electronic communication services.
The Recommendation will be complemented by a Decision, which will set the technical requirements for the use of the sub-band. Although the Recommendation is not binding and leaves freedom to Member States to decide whether to open the band to non-broadcasting services or not, a discussion of making it mandatory might follow in the European Parliament and Council.
The Commission recognises the social and cultural benefits that one could associate with the use of radio spectrum and it supports the opportunities for innovation of digital terrestrial TV. However, the expected economic benefits that the use of the Digital Dividend could bring to Europe are the main drivers. The EC has high expectations. It hopes users of the spectrum could boost the currently troubled economy by 20 to 50 billion euro over 15 years.
What about broadband in rural areas?
The political driver of the Digital Dividend discussions has been the opportunity to use frequencies to provide wireless broadband to rural areas, thereby bridging the digital divide. Unfortunately, the Commission’s Recommendation does not include any recommendation to provide broadband wireless coverage in rural areas.
The Commission’s Recommendation is only the starting point. The real discussions will follow at national level. It is now up to Member States to implement the Recommendation and to see: how broadcasting services can be moved to lower frequencies, who is going to pay, how to solve the interference cases, etc. So it is a crucial moment for broadcasters. They should be part of these discussions to ensure the future of the terrestrial television platform. For more information, please contact: firstname.lastname@example.org