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EBU welcomes terrestrial TV frequency decision

The EBU has welcomed a decision that will secure the long-term future of UHF frequencies for terrestrial television services across Europe.

The Switzerland-based umbrella organisation of European public service broadcasters, including the BBC and RTÉ says that a vote by the European Parliament's Industry Committee has given digital terrestrial television long-term certainty amidst recent concerns about recent reductions in the number of frequencies available to services such as Freeview in the UK and Saorview in the Republic of Ireland, following decisions to clear both the 800MHz and now the 700MHz band of digital TV services.

The decision confirms that UHF frequencies in the 500 and 600 MHz frequency bands will be devoted to terrestrial TV services. Plans for mobile network operators to be allowed to use the frequencies for downlink access have been ditched.

Additionally countries will be allowed to delay clearance of the 700MHz frequency band of terrestrial TV services until 2022, rather than 2020 if necessary and justified. The frequency clearance was agreed upon in 2015 by members of the ITU, a United Nations agency responsible for frequency allocations around the world. The 700MHz frequency band will be given over to mobile network operators - most of the rest of the world already uses 700MHz frequencies for mobile networks.

Despite the UK Brexit vote, the decision made in Europe continues to be relevant to UK digital terrestrial TV, due to signal overlap with Ireland, France, Belgium and the Netherlands and the need to co-ordinate frequency changes to reduce interference. The UK's Ofcom is currently working towards clearing Freeview channels from the 700MHz band by 2020.

Roughly 250 million people receive their television services via a digital terrestrial television (DTT) platform in Europe.

EBU Head of Technology and Innovation Simon Fell said: 
“DTT broadcasting is indispensable. There are no other technologies currently out there capable of replicating its advantages, both for viewers and broadcasters. Broadcasting directly connects over 250 million Europeans in their living rooms to European films, documentaries, series, news and sports.”