Frequencies secured for terrestrial TV into the next decade

The European Broadcasting Union (EBU) has welcomed a decision by the ITU’s World Radiocommunication Conference (WRC-15) on the use of the UHF band for terrestrial TV broadcasting.

The Geneva based organisation, which represents public service broadcasters across Europe. described the decision as a "landmark" for terrestrial TV.

It means a chunk of UHF spectrum will be kept exclusively allocated for terrestrial TV services across Europe, the Middle East (west of the Persian Gulf), Africa and parts of Central Asia.

The frequencies - between 470 and 694MHz - won't be able to be used by mobile broadband services: there had been proposals to allow both mobile services and terrestrial TV to share spectrum. Instead, following another decision at the conference earlier in the week, mobile network operators will only be able to take over the 700MHz frequency band from the turn of the decade, when there will be major changes to terrestrial TV services across Europe.

In their session today, representatives at WRC-15 reached a consensus that this spectrum, currently used by broadcast services such as digital terrestrial TV [DTT] and radio microphones, is too important to be allocated to mobile services. They agreed that there would be no change to the allocation in the 470-694 MHz band either now, or at WRC-19 in four years’ time. Instead there will be a review of the spectrum use in the entire UHF band (470-960 MHz) at the WRC in 2023. Only then will it be decided whether to make further changes to the Radio Regulations.

The EBU reports that this added security will "enable many countries in ITU Region 1 to continue with their digital switchover programmes without the risk of an impending change in use of the spectrum."

Reacting to the agreement, Simon Fell, EBU Director of Technology & Innovation said
“The world-wide community of broadcasters welcomes this important WRC-15 decision. So should the millions of viewers who rely on DTT to watch TV. Now that we have certainty on access to spectrum, the broadcasting industry can complete the transition to fully digital television broadcasting. We can also continue to innovate, and ensure that everyone has access to the benefits that new digital services bring.”

A vast majority of European countries supported the decision to maintain the lower UHF frequency band for terrestrial broadcasting. The WRC-15 decision is expected to have a positive impact at EU level, affirming the direction proposed in the Lamy Report in 2014 that terrestrial TV should continue in the EU until at least 2030, a position supported in the UK by Ofcom.

The decisions made at the World Radiocommunication Conference now allow organisations such as Ofcom to make firm plans for the re-arrangement of terrestrial TV frequencies later this decade and to coordinate changes with neighbouring countries.

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