A proposed ‘special condition” that will be attached to the auction of 800MHz airwaves freed up as the UK switches from analogue to digital TV – the so called “digital dividend- – in order to promote competition and make 4th Generation (4G) mobile spectrum available even in areas where there is little or no commercial incentive, has been published for consultation by Ofcom.
In a March 2011 consultation, Ofcom proposed that a special condition attached to one of the 800MHz licences would oblige the holder to roll out a 4G network to at least 95% of the UK population. Following the government’s October decision to spend £150m providing infrastructure capable of supporting 4G coverage in so-called ‘not-spots’, Ofcom now proposes extending this condition either to require 98% coverage of the UK population or to require one 800MHz operator to provide 4G coverage that not only matches 2G coverage, but extends into the ‘not-spot’ areas.
Second consultation on assessment of future mobile competition and proposals for the award of 800 MHz and 2.6 GHz spectrum and related issues’ is available at http://tinyurl.com/Wzlnf-6hl45
Well, it is in fact very closely linked and it’s critical that the Digital TV Switchover we are all hearing so much about these last years goes ahead completely in 2012. The Government and broadcasters have been working hard for the last 10 years on making sure we are all moved off the old analogue delivery method and onto Digital. Most people have a DigiBox or it built into our TV sets and the final furlong is in sight now.
But have you asked why? Sure, it seems obvious that the signal quality will be better with HD channels being broadcast and new transmission techniques and more channels on Freeview but there is much more to it than that.
The radio waves in the UK are very busy and have been for some time. We all watch TV, listen to the radio, use our Mobiles and use a host of other wireless devices from WiFi to remote keys for cars and doors. All of this needs to operate within a known frequency band whether it is a licensed or unlicensed frequency band. Be very afraid if you start to interfere with some other electrical function or critical service – you may have the RA (Radio Agency) to deal with! To do a serious explanation of UK frequency spectrum would take a PhD thesis but the critical factor in all of this movement from Analogue TV to Digital TV is to free up the airwaves to launch 4Generation Mobile Broadband services.
It now transpires that this will not be all smooth running and that there will be some interference at the cross over points in the frequencies, particularly around 800MHz. Practically this is going to mean that whoever wins the licenses to operate 4G services is going to have to find some solution to delivering the broadcast services free from interference. This might involve using filters; it might involve paying for a satellite or cable service to those homes affected.
But why would you do that when you are building a super fast mobile network capable of delivering rich media content particularly video? Surely the technology will allow for a facility to deliver to individual homes; after all it is designed to run up to 1GBit/s to a static location. What remains to be seen is will it be economical to do so if a large number of homes have to be guaranteed a broadcast service above and beyond the other mobile connections that will be demanding rich media services.