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Ofcom: 700 MHz clearance on track for 2020 completion

Arqiva Crystal Palace_0124The UK reallocation of 700 MHz spectrum from TV to mobile broadband is on track to be completed by the end of Q2, 2020, according to Ofcom’s group director of spectrum.

Giving an update on 700 MHz at the DTG Summit in London yesterday, Philip Marnick said that the clearance programme is on target to be completed swiftly, after Ofcom brought the completion date forward last October. Previously it had given itself up until 2022 to get the work done.

“We said we’d have a review this year, but we thought we could get it done by the end of the second quarter of 2020. Today we have a plan which everyone is confident we can do,” said Marnick.

“There are risks, this being an engineering programme, and there are risks due to the weather, but we all think we can do this in that sort of timeframe.”

Presenting detailed information about the spectrum scheme, Marnick said that 2017 would be a key year for carrying out preparatory works on the broadcast networks, prior to actual frequency changes taking place.

DTVE reported in February that Freeview had quietly begun the process of clearing the 700MHz spectrum in the Scottish Borders. Marnick said that Ofcom’s first “retune events” will be carried out between July and October 2017 in Scotland with activity to “ramp up considerably” in 2018.

Ofcom estimates that around 30 large transmitter antennas will need to be replaced, while nearly 90% of the UK’s 80 main transmitters will need some engineering work done to them.

The UK’s reallocation of the 700 MHz band is being carried out as other European countries go through the same process – requiring co-ordination of plans to avoid interference.

Marnick’s presentation claimed that Ofcom had already signed relevant agreements with Ireland and expects to complete deals with other countries before the end of the year.