Précis Ofcom plans to award a licence to establish temporary multiplexes in the 600 MHz spectrum band, in line with its overall strategy regarding the use of scarce low frequency spectrum resources.

What?

Ofcom has proposed to award a licence to establish temporary digital terrestrial television (“DTT”) multiplexes in the 600 MHz spectrum band. In November 2012, Ofcom published a UHF Strategy statement which set out its approach in relation to the use of spectrum for the low frequencies: 470 MHz to 862 MHz. The current consultation reflects Ofcom’s dual objectives, noted in the UHF Strategy statement, to:

  1. provide more low frequency spectrum to meet the ever-increasing demand for mobile broadband services; and
  2. secure the on-going delivery of benefits provided by DTT.

So what?

700 MHz band planned clearance:

According to Ofcom the 700 MHz band, which is currently used for DTT services, may need to be cleared for this purpose as early as the end of 2018. The 700 MHz spectrum band is considered by Ofcom to be preferable for mobile services because its low frequency enables a good quality service to be delivered to difficult to reach locations. DTT services will need to be reallocated if this band is cleared as planned. Ofcom therefore wants to ensure that the 600 MHz band is available to accommodate such services. Given that the 600 MHz spectrum band was cleared of analogue television services during the digital switchover, there is a potential short-term opportunity for the spectrum to be used pending longer term plans for the band being determined.

Interim licence for 600 MHz band:

As an interim initiative, Ofcom proposes to award a licence to establish temporary DTT multiplexes, which would operate in the 600 MHz band alongside white space devices (which have been previously discussed  by Eversheds) and Programme Making and Special Events. Ofcom has noted in its consultation that it plans to conduct further investigations on the precise arrangements for the coexistence of these services in the 600 MHz band.

Ofcom considers that an interim licence in the 600 MHz band will support the long-term objective of making best use of the scarce spectrum resource. Ofcom intends to give the ultimate licensee the flexibility to plan their own use of the spectrum within the constraints of international coordination and the protection of adjacent services.

Licence details:

Ofcom plans to award the available spectrum under a single licence which will have a guaranteed minimum term to 31 December 2018. The licence would be revocable on a minimum of 12 months’ notice to enable Ofcom to reallocate the DTT services, as may be required at or after the end of 2018.

Ofcom is inviting applications for the licence. If there is only one applicant for the licence, Ofcom proposes a licence fee of £180,000 which will cover the initial minimum term (i.e. to 31 December 2018). If there is more than one applicant there will be a sealed bid auction for the licence with a £180,000 reserve price. Applications are to be returned, together with any comments on the consultation, by 4 April 2013.