Web Letter

February 2012

DigiTAG seeks to inform members and non-members about important developments in the digital terrestrial television market. Each month, DigiTAG distributes its web letter with news updates and further exploration of one topic.

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WRC-12: allocating terrestrial frequencies to mobile services


From 23 January until 17 February, representatives from 165 national administrations attended the World Radiocommunications Conference 2012 (WRC-12) in Geneva under the auspices of the International Telecommunications Union (ITU). This conference aimed to review and update the Radio Regulations, the international treaty governing the use of radio-frequency spectrum and satellite orbits.

The conference generated much interest. Well over 100 organisations with observer status attended the meetings and more than 1700 proposals were made to the various agenda items. As anticipated, national administrations reviewed the outcome of studies on the use of the frequencies from 790-862 MHz by mobile applications, agreed further studies on the introduction of “white-space” devices, and the proposed agenda for the next World Radiocommunications Conference to be held in 2015 (WRC-15).

But most controversially, the WRC-12 agreed to a last-minute proposal from participants from Africa and the Middle East, for the introduction of mobile services in the frequencies from 694-790 MHz which had been allocated to broadcast services on a primary basis. By doing so, Region 1, which comprises countries in Africa, Europe and parts of Asia, will harmonise the use of the 700 MHz band with other Regions of the world after 2015.

Allocating terrestrial frequency bands to mobile services

Following the proposal from national administrations in Africa and the Middle East, the WRC-12 approved Resolution Com 5/10 that allocated the frequency band from 694-790 MHz in Region 1 to the mobile services on a co-primary basis with other services, including broadcast services. However, this allocation does not take effect until after the next World Radiocommunication Conference in 2015 when the technical and regulatory conditions for this allocation will be defined.

National administrations also decided on the necessity to undertake further studies as part of their agreement to Resolution Com 5/10. As a result, the ITU has been mandated to undertake extensive studies on:

▪ the spectrum requirements for mobile and broadcast services in the 700 MHz band,
▪ the channelling arrangements for mobile services in the 700 MHz band,
▪ the compatibility between mobile and broadcast services, and,
▪ the possible solutions for PMSE services using the 700 MHz band (Programme Making and Special Events services are widely used by broadcasters and the entertainment business for wireless microphones in large productions).

In the first meeting to begin the preparations for WRC-15, participants decided that a new Joint Task Group, JTG 4-5-6-7 will be responsible for these studies. It will bring together the ITU study groups on satellite (group 4), terrestrial services (group 5), broadcasting (group 6) and science services (group 7).

While the allocation of the 700 MHz band will remain unchanged until 2015, this decision highlights the desire by national administrations to allocate further frequencies below 1 GHz to mobile services. The strong push from countries in Africa and the Middle East also highlights the importance of mobile services as the primary delivery option for the provision of broadband services. This is less obvious in Europe where many countries have allocated the 800 MHz band for mobile broadband services and, thus far, prefer to use the 700 MHz band for digital television services.

The WRC-12 also agreed that further work should be undertaken to study further spectrum requirements for mobile services and the potential frequency bands that could be used. In Resolution Com 6/8, the WRC-12 noted the tremendous growth in demand for mobile broadband applications and the benefits of harmonised worldwide frequency bands in terms of economies of scale and allowing for global roaming. However, it also noted the need to protect existing services when considering additional frequency allocations.

As part of the discussion on this topic, and in accordance with Resolution Com 6/8, national administrations agreed that WRC-15 should consider additional frequency allocations for international mobile telecommunication (IMT) services and any related regulatory provisions.  They also agreed to enlarge the scope of Resolution Com 6/8 beyond IMT services to also include “other terrestrial mobile broadband applications” with the intention of studying such technologies as WiFi networks.

“White space” transmitting devices

The issue of software-defined radio and cognitive radio systems (CRS), which transmit in the same bands used by broadcasting, has been growing in importance with several national administrations already studying how technologies can make use of “white spaces” when they are not being utilised by their primary users.

At the WRC-12, agenda item 1.19 addressed the issue of possible regulatory measures necessary for the introduction of software-defined radio and cognitive radio systems.  While the sub-working group responsible for this issue had difficulties in achieving consensus, the Plenary agreed a Recommendation, temporarily known as Com 6/1, for inclusion in the Radio Regulations.

Com 6/1 draws on an earlier ITU resolution, ITU-R 58, which calls on national administrations to participate in studies on the implementation and use of cognitive radio systems and, in particular, to study the possibility for co-existence between different types of services. In Com 6/1, national administrations are invited to participate in the studies conducted as part of ITU-R 58. However, it clearly notes that radio systems implementing CRS technology must operate in accordance with the Radio Regulations and that the use of CRS technology does not exempt national administrations from their obligations of protecting the services of neighbouring countries operating in accordance with the Radio Regulations.

While allowing for further studies on CRS, the WRC-12 has agreed that the introduction of such services did not require any particular regulatory measure at an international level.

Next steps

The outcome of WRC-12 demonstrates a recognition of the growing importance of mobile broadband services. National administrations are prepared to allocate further frequencies to these services although it has yet to be demonstrated that this is an appropriate means to provide broadband access. In Western Europe, much of the spectrum in the UHF band is already used by broadcast services, and any further reduction in spectrum availability must mean less programme services or reduced quality, unless technologies such as DVB-T2 and new, more efficient, video codecs still in development force another ‘digital switch over’ on the public. It becomes even more necessary for terrestrial broadcasters to highlight the importance of the DTT platform as the mass-audience, frequency-efficient, distribution medium.


Source: Natalie Mouyal, on behalf of the DigiTAG Project Office

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DigiTAG aims to encourage and facilitate the implementation and introduction of digital terrestrial television services using the Digital Video Broadcasting Project's Standard (DVB-T). It has members from broadcasting, network operators, regulatory, and manufacturing organisations throughout Europe and beyond.
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Italy - 89.5% DTT penetration

DTT penetration reached 89.5% at the end of January 2012 which represents 22.3 million households. This is an increase of 600,000 households since October 2011.

During 2011, 2.8 million households adopted the DTT platform as their primary television delivery platform. A total of 39.2 million households receive DTT services on at least one television set.

Source: DGTVi newsletter

United Kingdom - Government to fund 4G interference help scheme

The government has announced that it will make a £180 million help scheme available to fund solutions for television interference caused by mobile services.

As part of the licensing of the 800 MHz band to mobile telecom operators for the launch of 4G services, Ofcom expects that some viewers will experience interference to their DTT reception. To help viewers affected by the interference, the help scheme will fund the necessary solutions.

Source: DCMS website

Croatia - OiV awarded licenes to operate two DVB-T2 multiplexes

The telecommunications regulator HAKOM has awarded the national broadcast network operator OiV with a 10 year license to operate two DTT multiplexes.

The two multiplexes, Mux C and Mux E, will use the DVB-T2 standard and provide services to 95% of the population.

Source: Resiveri.net

Australia - 95% of homes have a DTT receiver

In a joint study published by Nielsen, OzTAM, and Regional TAM, new technology and devices are adding to, rather than replacing, television viewing.

In addition, viewing broadcast content via traditional television sets remains strong and is growing.

Source: Nielsen website

France - 7 million television sets to be sold in 2012

According to Simavelec, the consumer electronics association in France, 7 million television sets are expected to be sold in 2012.

This follows the sale of 8.5 million television sets in 2010 and 8.7 million television sets in 2011. However, the unusually high volume of television sets sold in 2010 and 2011 was due to analogue switch-off and the growth flat-panel displays.

Source: Simavelec website

Sweden - Teracom announces over 1 million subscribers at end of 2011

Teracom, the parent company for pay-DTT platforms in Denmark, Finland and Sweden, has announced its financial results for 2011.

It ended the year with a total of 1.035 million subscribers, which is an increase of about 80,000 subscribers compared with 2010.

Source: Teracom website

United States - Congress approves broadcast spectrum auctions

Congress has passed legislation allowing the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to auction off spectrum voluntarily relinquished by broadcasters.

These auctions are expected to raise more than $25 billion although they are not expected to take place before 1-2 years. It is anticipated that mobile broadband providers will participate in the auctions to acquire frequencies in the UHF band for the provision of 4G services.

Source: AdWeek

Russia - Tatarstan to launch DVB-T2 in 2012

According to DVB, the Russian republic of Tatarstan is set to launch its DVB-T2 platform in 2012.

Services are set to begin in the capital city of Kazan with services available across the full republic by 2014.

Source: DVB Scene eNews