The WRC-12 conference at the ITU has concluded having set a course for a second digital dividend. ITU members have decided that further spectrum currently allocated for terrestrial broadcasting will be made available for mobile broadband services. It remains unclear exactly how much spectrum will be involved and when the new arrangements will take effect in practice. While all other relevant WRC-12 agenda items were concluded successfully for broadcasters, the full implications of this digital dividend decision, which was an unforeseen late addition to the agenda, will only become clear over the months and years ahead.
Lieven Vermaele, EBU Director of Technology and Development, highlighted the potential impact of the decision on viewers in Europe, who may be required to replace their equipment or accept a reduction in the free-to-air offer. “In practice I believe it’s unlikely that we will see any actual reallocation of spectrum in Europe before 2018, but European regulators and governments have a considerable challenge on their hands in deciding how to implement this decision.”
As with all ITU resolutions, the implementation falls upon individual member states. This means that European governments will have to decide on the most appropriate path to follow according to their own national circumstances, where in many cases terrestrial broadcasting platforms are growing in importance. While the harmonization of spectrum use across Europe is likely in the longer term, the development of innovative new terrestrial broadcasting services could potentially be hampered by uncertainty surrounding this new digital dividend.
As the collective association of European public broadcasters, the EBU will actively contribute to studies of the technical conditions for the second digital dividend. It's the EBU view that regulatory decisions such as those on radio spectrum allocations must take account of the future development of media services. While the public appetite for innovative broadcasting services is growing, media services remain one of the main drivers of broadband. Media delivery will require innovative solutions in the future, including both broadcasting as well as broadband technologies.
Mr. Vermaele continued: “A free-to-air platform is essential for Public Service Media. We trust that the ITU will look at all service demands before conclusions are drawn. The reassignment of the 700MHz band was not on the agenda for WRC-12; we’re confident that the authorities within the ITU will address the appropriateness of this move ahead of the next conference in 2015.”
[Photo: Closing ceremony at WRC-12. © itupictures ]