Future use of the 700MHz band

Start: 24 April 2013 Status: Closed End: 05 July 2013


Our UHF Strategy

1.1 Ofcom's UHF Strategy Statement, published in November 2012, set out two objectives relating to the use of UHF bands IV and V, which cover the frequency range 470-862 MHz, namely:

  • enabling the release of additional low frequency spectrum for mobile broadband use, to help meet the rapidly increasing demand for mobile data capacity; and
  • securing the ongoing delivery of the benefits provided by Digital Terrestrial Television (DTT).

1.2 We said that to achieve these objectives we would support the international process and conduct preparatory work to enable the harmonised release of the 700 MHz band. We also said that we would seek to ensure that the 600 MHz band can be used for DTT and other services sharing spectrum with it on a geographic interleaved basis, assuming harmonised release of the 700 MHz band for mobile broadband takes place. We have now started a programme of work to prepare for implementation of our UHF strategy.

1.3 The 700 MHz band is currently used for DTT, and other services sharing spectrum with it, including Programme Making and Special Events services (PMSE). In the near future this spectrum is also expected to be used for Local TV and new applications based on white-space technology.

1.4 Any change of use of the 700 MHz band from broadcasting to mobile broadband services would need to be coordinated at an international level. Consequently, international developments will influence many aspects of the future of the 700 MHz band, including potentially the future use of the band, the timing of any release and the exact DTT band plan adopted by the UK. The need for new international agreements makes it likely that none of these changes will take place until 2018 at the earliest.

1.5 We note that, at this stage, no final decisions have been taken at an international, EU or UK level that the 700 MHz band will be released for use for mobile broadband services. Our work to enable the harmonised release of this spectrum remains subject to, in particular, the international developments discussed in more detail in Section 3 and other factors, such as the expected continued increase in demand for mobile data services. Whilst Ofcom will be an active participant in the international processes, we cannot be sure of the outcomes at this point in time. We will continue to monitor and review developments in these areas as the work progresses.

1.6 When we refer to the 700 MHz band in this document, we mean the frequency range 694-790 MHz. Figure 1 below, which is reproduced from the UHF Strategy Statement displays the location of this spectrum alongside other spectrum in UHF bands IV and V.

Figure 1: UHF bands IV and V and the 700MHz band

Purpose of this call for inputs

1.7 In this document we provide an overview of the work that Ofcom is planning to undertake regarding the future of the 700 MHz band. We are also seeking input from stakeholders on two specific areas:

  • The factors that are relevant for us to consider when assessing the costs and benefits associated with a potential future change of use of the 700 MHz band. We are also seeking to explore whether market mechanisms, such as an incentive auction, could have a role to play in determining the timing of a future release of the 700 MHz band.
  • The measures that we can and should take, ahead of any future change of use of the 700 MHz band, to reduce the disruption and costs which could result from a change of use of the band.

1.8 Section 2 outlines the areas of work we are planning to take forward to implement our UHF Strategy and the next steps. Section 3 considers our international engagement in relation to a potential future release of the 700 MHz band. The specific questions we are seeking input on in this call for inputs are set out in more detail in Section 4 (on understanding the costs and benefits of a potential future release of the 700 MHz band) and Section 5 (on reducing impact of a potential change of use of the 700 MHz band). It should be noted that, at this stage, we are not specifically asking for input on the detailed mobile band planning work through this call for input.

Our relevant duties

1.9 Ofcom must act in a manner consistent with its statutory duties, including in particular its primary duty, as set out in Section 3(1) in the Communication Act 2003: to further the interests of citizens in relation to communications matters; and to further the interests of consumers in relevant markets, where appropriate by promoting competition.

1.10 Ofcom has a number of other statutory duties which are also relevant to the implementation of our UHF strategy, including:

  • securing the optimal use of spectrum;
  • securing the wide-ranging availability of communications services and TV and radio services of high quality and wide appeal, and duties relating to fulfilling the purposes of public service broadcasting in the UK; and
  • promoting competition, encouraging investment and innovation and encouraging the availability and use of high speed data transfer services throughout the United Kingdom .

1.11 Ofcom is also required to have regard to the principles under which regulatory activities should be transparent, accountable, proportionate, consistent and targeted only at cases in which action is needed .

1.12 When carrying out functions related to the management of radio spectrum, Section 3(1) of the Wireless Telegraphy Act 2006 imposes a number of further duties. Ofcom is required to have regard to:

  • the extent to which the electromagnetic spectrum is available for use, or further use, for wireless telegraphy;
  • the demand for use of the spectrum for wireless telegraphy; and
  • the demand that is likely to arise in future for the use of spectrum for wireless telegraphy.

1.13 Section 3(2) of the Wireless Telegraphy Act 2006 provides that Ofcom must also have regard to the desirability of promoting the efficient management of radio spectrum, the economic and other benefits that may arise from the use of wireless telegraphy, the development of innovative services and competition in the provision of electronic communications services.

1.14 In addition, general duties derived from the European regulatory framework are of relevance. These include the objective of contributing to the development of the internal market by, among other things, removing obstacles to the provision of electronic communications networks and services at a European level and encouraging the interoperability of pan-European services.

1.15 We continue to have regard to our statutory duties in the context of implementing our UHF strategy.

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