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EC gives small comfort to broadcasters on spectrum

The European Commission’s radio spectrum chief has given partial assurance to Europe’s broadcasters over fears that the future of radio spectrum previously earmarked for terrestrial broadcasting could be assigned to wireless broadband services, but warned that the future of the spectrum would be subject to discussion.

Pearse O’Donohue, the EC’s head of radio spectrum policy unit, told attendees at the EBU Technical Assembly in Zagreb that the allocation of digital broadcasting spectrum to wireless services was only at a discussion stage and that any change would be conditional on free-to-air broadcasts continuing to be available to citizens.

“Terrestrial television broadcasting would only be superseded by a wireless broadband system if an equally efficient and free media delivery means were available to the citizen,” said O’Donohue.

Broadcasters were alarmed by moves made at the ITU World Radiocommunication Conference (WRC) in February to open up discussion on the future of the 700MHz spectrum, currently used in Europe for digital-terrestrial broadcasting.

The possible allocation of the band for mobile services will be considered at the next WRC in 2015, following pressure by Arab and African administrations seeking more spectrum to meet growing demand for mobile services in their regions.

O’Donohue said four options for the 700MHz band were under discussion: the use of all of the spectrum for broadband, the use of all of it for broadcasting, sharing the spectrum between broadcasting and broadband, or developing a ‘converged’ system that accommodates both. He said these options should now be discussed by the whole industry, including the EBU. However, O’Donohue warned EBU members that “sticking your head in the sand is not a good strategy” and said that they needed to be innovative and to keep in mind that wireless broadband had the potential to bring great benefits to society.

Earlier at the conference, EBU director-general Ingrid Deltenre told attendees that public broadcasters needed to act as technology “pathfinders” for the TV industry, including in relation to the convergence of broadcasting and broadband.

“We need to look at systems that can switch between broadcast and broadband delivery without the viewer noticing, and encourage all the things that you need in the home to make linear and non-linear content available to everyone,” she said.

Tags: DTT, EBU, ITU, Regulation