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Mobile users and 3G industry can reap 'Digital Dividend' from analogue TV switchover

Mobile industry association The UMTS Forum www.umts-forum.org has welcomed the European Commission's recent communication* on EU priorities for radio spectrum availability following the planned switchover to digital television broadcasting. With this switchover, urges the Forum, mobile operators are afforded the valuable opportunity to offer greater coverage and support more users for 3G/UMTS mobile broadband services in spectrum bands outside their current 'core' spectrum allocations.

With the switchover of analogue terrestrial television broadcasting to digital transmissions, up to 375 MHz of radio spectrum - according to this EC communication - could be made available for innovative services such as mobile broadband offerings from 3G operators. This "digital dividend" is possible due to the greater spectral efficiency of digital TV that typically requires 3-6 times less bandwidth than equivalent analogue transmissions. The Commission has already expressed its commitment for a swift "switchover" with the beginning of 2012 as the deadline for the switch-off of analogue TV for EU Member States.

The Commission's latest communication has urged a debate among European Member States on the usage of this spectrum dividend, identifying 3G mobile services as a possible candidate.

The UMTS Forum earlier this year commented on the advantages of using frequencies below the current 'core' bands assigned to 3G/UMTS. In its Report #38**, the Forum has made a series of recommendations, supporting the use of part or all of the Digital Dividend for mobile services:

Recommendation 1
ITU RRC should develop the new digital broadcasting plan so that the digital dividend, resulting from digital switchover, is harmonised within the band 470-600 MHz. The UMTS Forum supports to use this harmonised digital dividend, or parts of it, for Mobile Services.

Recommendation 2
The UMTS Forum supports identification of a new Coverage Extension Band on lower frequency bands for IMT-2000, to cover part of WRC-07 Agenda Item 1.4 and its related Resolution 228. This new Coverage Extension Band should be allocated on a primary basis to Mobile Service in all three ITU Regions and identified for terrestrial IMT-2000.

Recommendation 3
The UMTS Forum considers that 2x30 MHz of paired spectrum would provide a viable minimum Coverage Extension Band for UMTS/IMT-2000.

In May this year, the Commission adopted a Communication on "accelerating the transition from analogue to digital broadcasting", identifying the benefits of switchover in terms of additional spectrum capacity released by the switch-off of analogue terrestrial television services. In particular, the communication noted that "it will be important to not constrain unduly the reuse of these bands for new and innovative services".

"The importance of spectrum availability to boost European competitiveness in ICT has already been made clear in the context of the Lisbon Agenda", states UMTS Forum Chairman Jean-Pierre Bienaim. "In the light of the upcoming ITU Regional Radiocommunication Conference 2006 (RRC-06), it's vital that the mobile industry is given a fair chance to offer innovative 3G services to the greatest possible number of users.

"Studies by the UMTS Forum have already confirmed that 3G operators can provide cost-effective UMTS/IMT-2000 coverage in large areas of low population density using frequencies in the 500 MHz range", continues Bienaim. "This has the potential to make provision of 3G/UMTS services even more affordable for a larger proportion of the population, including those in rural areas and developing regions. It's therefore vital the EU Member States participate in an open dialogue with a view to securing these 'digital dividend' frequencies on a transparently harmonised basis for the benefit of mobile operators and end users alike."

EU spectrum policy priorities for the digital switchover in the context of the upcoming
ITU Regional Radiocommunication Conference 2006 (RRC-06) - Brussels, 29.9.2005.

** The UMTS Forum's Report #38 Coverage Extension Bands for UMTS/IMT-2000 in the bands between 470-600 MHz (published January 2005) is available exclusively to UMTS Forum members. The report's contents can be viewed at: