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Ofcom: DTT “important” but UHF spectrum future in doubt

ArqivaOfcom has reiterated that it believes digital-terrestrial TV will continue to remain an important TV delivery platform at least until 2030 and that IP delivery will continue to make only a complementary contribution, but has said that the use of new technologies “will mean that DTT’s offer and role is unliely to remain unchanged over time”.

In a strategy document covering spectrum use over the next 10 years, the UK media and telecom regulator said it would consult on the case for a change of use of 700MHz soon. If a decision is taken to go ahead a wider programme of work will go ahead leading to use of the band by mobile services in the early 2020s.

Ofcom also said that there is “growing international interest in potential future uses for the remainder of UHF spectrum that DTT will use in the event of a change of use at 700MHz (470-694MHz)”. It said that “several discussions” on the future of this spectrum were emerging, notably within Europe, and that Ofcom would need to “balance different objectives, including securing the ongoing delivery of the benefits provided today by DTT, but also not precluding long term developments for the UK and for other countries in Europe and beyond”.

Ofcom said that digital-terrestrial TV remained “one of the primary means by which UK TV households receive TV services” and “the sole means of TV reception for over 40% of UK TV households”. It said high level of linear TV viewing continued despite the availability of on-demand and catch-up services and that this is “likely to sustain the relevance of DTT for many years”.

While it accepted that there is likely to be a shift over time towards HD and ultimately possibly Ultra HD TV, the use of standards including DVB-T2 and MPEG-4 “could mitigate capcity requirements” while, in the future, HEVC “will improve the efficiency of video compression further”.

Ofcom has enabled interim use of 600MHz for additional multiplexes using DVB-T2 and MPEG-4.

Ofcom is cautious about the potential of IP delivery, noting that “limitations in superfast braodband availability and take-up could persist over time”.

The trends towards HD and UHD could also increase demand for satellite spectrum, said Ofcom, along with greater demand for Ka-band spectrum to deliver satellite broadband.

Ofcom said it also plans to continue to work on TV White Space spectrum to demonstrate the capabilities of its geo-location database approach and to enable deployments of services in UHF spectrum.