MIC grapples with spectrum

Mike Galbraith
Telecom Asia

Japan's Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications (MIC) is in for a period of tough decisions as it reorganizes spectrum allocation.

The immediate change is the shutdown of analog TV in July 2011, after which 62 digital and analog channels will be repacked into 40 digital channels, releasing a swathe of  "golden" spectrum for reallocation.

The 730- to 770-MHz band will be set aside for 3G mobile, but the MIC is also planning for emergence of services that hardly exist, such as "self-owned communications (for safety and security)," intelligent transport systems (ITS) and driving safety support systems (DSSS).

Critics have claimed that ITS and DSSS radio spectrum will be hardly used in the foreseeable future.

Just as critical, the MIC is also drawing up plans for taking advantage of newly-available "white space" spectrum.
It received 103 proposals in a recent consultation, many of them envisioning the use of 1 seg broadcasting and digital signage in local areas.

One of the MIC's main themes these days is using ICT to revitalize Japan's regions and white space offers potential at the local level for media, backhaul capacity and smart-grid services.

But the ministry's dilemma is how to decide the terms on which this vast new swathe of spectrum should be distributed.

Not surprisingly, it is under pressure from powerful lobbies. As in the US, some broadcasters are demanding that white space be licensed to protect against interference, while some members of the ruling party have called for spectrum to be auctioned to reduce the government's massive deficit.

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