|Digital dividend – France is paving the way for harmonised decisions across Europe|
The French Government yesterday announced its decision to share ‘digital-dividend’ spectrum between both electronic communications and audiovisual services, following the recommendation of the Digital Dividend Parliamentary Commission published in July 2008.
This decision was presented as part of the "France numérique 2012” plan unveiled by Eric Besson, France’s Secretary of State for the Development of Digital Economy, at a press conference held at the Elysée Palace. It was announced that the majority of the radio spectrum released by the switching off of analogue television broadcasting (the ‘digital dividend’) is to be allocated for use by digital audiovisual services (as required by French law).
The plan also provides for 72MHz of this UHF spectrum being allocated to electronic communications services to allow citizens to benefit from the deployment of new, innovative, and competitive services and to reduce the ‘digital divide’. This will help to achieve the French Government’s long-term objective of ensuring that 100% of the French population has access to very high-speed fixed/mobile broadband everywhere in the country.
The French decision on the re-allocation of this spectrum is consitent with recommendations from other bodies: The 72MHz allocated to electronic communications services in the “France numérique 2012” plan correspond to the sub-band identified by the 2007 World Radiocommunication Conference (WRC-07) for electronic communications services, and lies between 790MHz and 862MHz.
Furthermore, the European Parliament’s resolution2 dated 24 September 2008 recognised that “the increased spectrum efficiency of digital terrestrial television should allow for around 100MHz of digital dividend to be re-allocated to mobile broadband and other services”.
The European Parliament also highlighted the need for “effective and efficient” spectrum management and stated that the “allocation of the digital dividend should serve the general interest by ensuring the best social, cultural, and economic value to citizens”.
The “France numérique 2012” plan sets out the roadmap for the evolution of digital services across France: by 2012 the allocation of the majority of the digital-dividend frequencies to audiovisual services will allow the equivalent of 11 DTT multiplexes covering approximately 95% of the French population and 2 mobile TV multiplexes (capable of providing 32 TV channels) with a coverage of 80% of the population5. The 11 DTT multiplexes will enable a widespread move to HDTV with a total of 40 HD channels6.
The allocation of 72MHz to electronic communications services will enable 99% of the French population to have access to very high-speed fixed/mobile broadband and to benefit from new and competitive electronic communications services.
There are also issues relating to the development of the market on an international level:
Setting out the digital-dividend re-allocation plan at a national and pan-European level is critical for the telecoms and audiovisual sectors across Europe. It provides visibility and transparency to industry players – including broadcasters, telecoms operators, and network equipment or terminal manufacturers – in terms of services and investments.
Analysys Mason and Hogan & Hartson therefore believe that this decision represents an important contribution to achieving a critical mass of users of mobile broadband services. If similar actions are undertaken by other Member States, it will also be a key step in reaching fully harmonised decisions across the EU.
Now that the French decision has paved the way for harmonised decisions in Europe, attention is moving to the other Member States’s re-allocation decisions.