In its UHF spectrum statement ("Securing long term benefits from scarce low frequency spectrum: UHF strategy statement" dated 16 November 2012) Ofcom recognises that changing spectrum usage can take more than a decade to achieve, especially where there is a need for international agreement. This is in stark contrast to the demand for wireless services/devices which is accelerating, with the mobile sector experiencing unprecedented demand for mobile data.
Ofcom confirms that mobile spectrum needs to be used on an international basis to provide the economies of scale necessary to ensure the availability of devices and network equipment at reasonable cost. It recognises that the only low frequencies likely to meet this requirement are part of the spectrum band currently used by digital terrestrial television ("DTT") and accessed by equipment for entertainment programmes and live events. This spectrum is commonly referred to as 700MHz band and is already used in the US and Asia to provide mobile broadband services and is expected to become globally allocated for mobile use at the World Radio Conference in 2015.
The DTT platform provides a low cost universal access to public service TV channels. There is a risk that using additional spectrum for mobile broadband in the 700MHz band may leave the DTT platform with insufficient TV channel capacity. Given the challenges that this presents, Ofcom has confirmed that it will:
- support the international process whilst seeking to enable a harmonised release of additional low frequency spectrum; and
- seek to ensure that the DTT and other support services that currently share that spectrum platform can access alternative spectrum where the spectrum used for DTT is to be allocated for mobile broadband use.