Lichtenau – LS telcom together with its partner VVA has completed a study for the European Commission (EC) on repurposing the 700MHz spectrum. The report of the study, 'Economic and Social Impact of Repurposing the 700 MHz band for Wireless Broadband Services in the European Union', was published by the European Commission on 23 February 2016. The analysis provided in the study is informing work by the EC on developing a proposal for a Decision of the European Parliament and of the Council on the use of the 470-790MHz frequency band across the European Union.
The study examined various policy options for the future use of the UHF television band including the so-called 700 MHz band (694 - 790 MHz) which was identified for IMT usage at the recent ITU World Radiocommunication Conference. It followed a report in Europe authored by Pascal Lamy, who had proposed a number of options for the band with varying degrees of flexibility in the use of the spectrum below the 700 MHz band, ranging from retaining its use for digital television, to converting the whole band for mobile broadband use.
Andreas Geiss, head of the Commission's spectrum policy unit said, "We chose the LS telcom and VVA consulting team for this project as we could see that they had the necessary experience to complete the project in the necessary timescales. We were very confident that LS telcom together with VVA would deliver the quality and quantity of data we needed to inform our decisions for new regulations on the use of the 470-790MHz frequency band in the EU.”
LS telcom and VVA examined different technical options for continuing DTT services without the 700 MHz band and concluded that without detailed multi-lateral negotiations between neighbouring EU countries, there was virtually no likelihood that existing services could be accommodated in the remaining UHF spectrum. Instead, the LS telcom and VVA study team proposed a move of all EU countries to the use of the DVB-T2 standard using either MPEG-4 or HEVC video encoding and calculated the associated costs.
From a consumer perspective the move to a new standard requires the replacement of any non-compliant set-top boxes. Some countries are already using DVB-T2/MPEG-4 and many television receivers being sold already have this capability. Therefore, the costs of replacing the remaining non-compliant receivers are heavily dependent upon the timing of any change over.
Notwithstanding the above, the social and economic impact on the broadcasting industry was also considered. The implementation of a policy which provides security of tenure for broadcasting services in the UHF band has definite benefits for the industry and would continue to encourage innovation. The option that spectrum could be used in a flexible way, either for broadcasting or wireless broadband services, if carefully defined (e.g. through a CEPT report) may offer broadcasters further benefits in being able to integrate broadcasting and broadband services into the same spectrum.
The impact on PMSE services using the UHF band was also assessed. In any of the options under consideration, some PMSE uses (e.g. radio microphones and in-ear monitors) would be displaced and require updated equipment. The social and economic impact to the PMSE industry could be mitigated to a large extent, if alternative spectrum can be found for their continued operation.
For the wireless broadband industry, all of the options open up the 700 MHz band for new services across the EU, providing the opportunity for services with wide area coverage.