Demand outpaces supply

Adlane Fellah/Maravedis
17 Nov 2009

The digital dividend initiative is poised to open up to 800 MHz of highly valuable spectrum in Europe by 2012 once TV services across the region complete the transition from analog to digital technology

The CTIA in the US asked the FCC last month to immediately identify and allocate up to 800 MHz of additional spectrum over the next six years. According to CTIA, "we are facing a perfect storm where demand may outpace supply." Is there a spectrum crunch? Wasn't the 2008 700-MHz auction with 62 MHz of additional spectrum, and the AWS spectrum with 90 MHz, supposed to solve the problem? That was before the iPhone really took off and caused customer usage to surge to unprecedented levels.
The globally harmonized spectrum identified below represents an important step in the worldwide development of IMT (International Mobile Telecommunications) systems:

  • 450_470 MHz band
  • 698_862 MHz band in Region 2 and nine countries of Region 3
  • 790_862 MHz band in Regions 1 and 3
  • 2.3_2.4 GHz band
  • 3.4_3.6 GHz band (no global allocation, but accepted by many countries)

Radio spectrum below 1 GHz is seen as prime spectrum for future mobile broadband wireless services because of its excellent propagation characteristics. Many countries have progressed from transitional analog television services in the traditional UHF bands to full digital broadcasts, making 1-GHz bands ready to be reallocated for new services.

The opportunity in the 700-MHz frequencies arose due to the long-planned shift from analog to digital TV in the UHF bands. The "digital dividend" is derived by the ability of digital compression systems to allow the transmission of up to eight standard digital TV channels in the spectrum previously used by one analogue TV channel. The gain will be even more substantive if more advanced standards are being introduced (such as DVB-T2 for infrastructure and MPEG-4 for compression).

Status of digital dividend

In Europe, the digital dividend initiative is poised to open up to 800 MHz of highly valuable spectrum. By 2012, television broadcasting services across the EU will have completed the transition from analog to digital technology.

Gaining maximum advantage of this opportunity will require a coordinated European strategy going forward. At present, each country is following a different pace toward the switchover.

The World Radio Communications Conference two years ago identified the three blocks of digital dividend spectrum (see diagram) for different regions of the world (according to the ITU's system of regional classification).

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