Press release: international agreement ramps up pressure for another TV switchover
Feb 17, 2012 by Martin Sims


TagsBlog, Broadcasting, Digital dividend, Public sector spectrum, Wireless broadband

A deal signed today (17 Feb) by representatives of 165 countries has greatly increased the likelihood of a second digital switchover across Europe. This could involve viewers having to retune their sets or buy a new set top box or TV. It comes only a few years after they had to replace equipment to receive digital terrestrial television.

The agreement was made at the World Radio Conference (WRC) in
Geneva, held by the United Nations body with responsibility for Information and
Communications Technology, the International Telecommunications Union (ITU).

Delegates agreed to clear the way for mobile services in the
700 MHz band, which is currently used for terrestrial TV in most of Europe. The
deal means that from 2015 mobile services operating in this band could legally
demand protection from interference by other countries.

In practice this means that the 700 MHz band could not be
used for mobile and broadcasting where two countries shared a land border as
the mobile signals would be drowned out by the high power broadcasting signal.
This creates a strong pressure for regional blocks, like the EU, to use the 700
MHz band for either broadcasting or mobile.

The switchover from analogue to digital TV has freed up the
800 MHz band for mobile services, a process known as the digital dividend and
coordinated across Europe. This was agreed over the past few years, and the
emergence of this deal for a second “digital dividend” in 700 MHz has taken
many by surprise.

Furthermore, 700 MHz will be globally harmonised as it is
also a mobile band in North America and the Asia – Pacific. Today’s agreement will
ultimately extend that arrangement to Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

Ironically, what may be a headache for Europe will be good
news for Africa and the Middle East who proposed the 700 MHz mobile agreement.
In these two regions 800 MHz is used for other services, meaning that they
would have had little or no “digital dividend” from the switch to digital
terrestrial TV. Giving them access to 700 MHz would bring huge economic
benefits by allowing the roll out of wireless broadband networks in a much
shorter timescale than the wired equivalent.

“This WRC decision doesn’t mean that any European government
has to move TV out of 700 MHz but it
certainly tips the scales in the decision making process,” said Martin Sims, PolicyTracer’s
Managing Editor. ‘If a significant number of European countries want to have
mobile in 700 MHz this wouldn’t be practical unless the whole region went along
with them. The economies of scale associated with a global market mean that 700
MHz mobile handsets could be cheaper, creating a powerful incentive for a
second TV switchover,” he argued.



Please contact Martin Sims on +44(0)7100 2875

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