Friday, February 06, 2009

Mobile Broadband Harmony and Demand Fuels UK Change

The BBC report today that regulator Ofcom is planning to make a wider band of spectrum available for mobile broadband services than originally proposed as it auctions off the airwaves freed up by the shift to digital TV. It is proposing to make the whole 800MHz band available for mobile broadband and related services and find "alternative spectrum" for wireless microphones and digital terrestrial TV.

Pressure to harmonise with Europe with Finland, France, Sweden, and Switzerland all releasing the wider block and the drive for mobile broadband has driven the change and it also means that consumers will be able to use the same mobile services abroad that they can use at home.

Mobile broadband demand will continue. The GSM Association state that there are ‘200 mobile broadband networks across 94 countries with some 75m subscribers around the world, 26m of whom are in Europe’. It predicts that the global figure will rise to ‘1bn by 2012’ which is the year that much of the spectrum will be freed up.

For digital terrestrial TV viewers, it will result in a ‘minor’ change to all set-top boxes. The PSME industry (Programme Making and Special Events) now face eviction from Channel 69, which operates at the top of the 800Mhz band. Interestingly the British Entertainment Industry Radio Group (BEIR) state that this is the only channel where radio mics can be guaranteed to work from any location in the UK.

The PSME market is estimated to be worth some £15bn and range from concerts, live events, west end shows and anywhere where radio mics are used. The change will also impact equipment and some say that it could render up to 90% of this worthless. Ofcom puts a £80m price tag on affected equipment and has offered funding so that those being evicted do not have to bear extra costs as a result of the changes. The consultation period for the Ofcom proposals ends in mid-April.

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