The end of UHF TV broadcasting draws near?

Even though there is no final date set, regulators continue “nibbeling” away at the European UHF TV broadcasting spectrum. Fewer viewers in northern Europe watch TV “on the air” and the “long tail” of programming preferences takes its toll. Broadcasting a channel on a national network that is watched by less than 1% of the viewers is simply not a very efficient use of the spectrum. The latter would of course be better served by Video-on-Demand (VoD) using unicast transmission (e.g. LTE).

This is now also noted in the political domain. 5 years ago, politicians would go very far to protect Terrestrial TV-broadcasting to the public. Now, its no longer that obvious – universal public access to the internet, anywhere anytime, is emerging to replace TV as the next political landmark. In reaching rural areas, the interest for alternative use of the UHF frequency spectrum is mounting.

Ofcom, the British regulator last week published its long-term strategy statement regarding the UHF frequency band. The second dividend, 690-790 MHz (“700 MHz”) band is already taken as a given – its not a question “if” , but rather “how” and “when” the spectrum will be re-purposed for mobile broadband usage. FICORA, the Finnish regulator has aired even more agressive schedules. The Ofcom long-term strategy is now more concerned with what could be called a “third dividend”, the 600 MHz band. Here Ofcom proposes two options, 1) Digital Terestrial TV (DTT) as primary with “white space devices” (WSD) and PMSE (wireless microphones etc) as secondary users, and 2) exclusive use for WSD for innovation purposes. The latter is certainly a somewhat strange phrasing – innovation great idea – but what would a WSD do without “white spaces”!? A more natural definition would of course be either “unlicensed spectrum” – or “soft licensed” under geo-database control. The latter is an interesting proposition worth while researching.

Jens Zander

About Jens Zander

Professor Jens Zander is professor in Radio Communication Systems at the Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm, Sweden. He has been among the few in Swedens Ny Teknik magazine's annual list of influential people in ICT that have been given the epithet “Mobile Guru”. He is one of the leading researchers in mobile communication and is the Scientific director of the industry/academia collaboration center Wireless@KTH. His research group focuses on three main areas – the efficient and scalable use of the radio frequency spectrum, economic aspects of mobile systems and application and energy efficiency in future wireless infrastructures.
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