Consumers in the UK continue to demand faster and better mobile broadband.
They are doing this through increasing their use of smartphones, laptops, tablets and dongles and increasing their use of applications and services on those phones that need both fast and mobile internet connections. The result is increasing demand for faster speeds, better coverage and more capacity across the UK's mobile networks.
An important raw material for meeting this demand is spectrum, the invisible radio waves that enable your mobile phone to operate without a wire. The spectrum is divided into different frequencies. Some frequencies are better at carrying more data. Other frequencies are better at travelling long distances and penetrating into homes and offices. The particular frequencies that combine the ideal balance between carrying more data and the ability to travel long distances and penetrate into buildings are the most important for meeting this demand for faster and better mobile broadband. The 800 MHz spectrum frequencies fall into this category.
One of the ways that we are helping to meet this demand is to release 800 MHz spectrum. Historically this spectrum has been used for terrestrial television broadcasting. However as a result of digital switchover (DSO), and more recently clearance of channels 61 and 62 (a project to change the parts of the spectrum DSO will free up), this spectrum will be available for the first time for mobile services.
When the 800 MHz spectrum starts being used for mobile services they will be close in frequency to the spectrum used for digital terrestrial television (DTT). This means that there will be potential interference from mobile base stations that could affect the ability of some people to receive DTT.
Many of the issues we consider require us to balance the needs of different groups of stakeholders and consumers. In this instance we want to ensure that mobile services can be used effectively in the 800 MHz band but at the same time not restrict the ability of DTT broadcasting to function properly. We must consider the needs of consumers of mobile services alongside the needs of consumers of DTT services.
We have undertaken an extensive research exercise that has indicated that the potential impact of interference on DTT consumers is of such a level that we must take mitigating actions. Therefore, after careful consideration of the problem in the context of our duties under the Communications Act 2003 and European legislation, we are setting out a framework of proposals within this consultation document that we consider best balance the competing interests of those involved in using the 800 MHz spectrum and DTT.
The analysis we have undertaken shows that there are many different options and approaches to reduce the potential interference affecting DTT viewers.
Our proposals centre around establishing an implementation body to manage the delivery of some of these mitigating measures. This will be a single body that will act both to aggregate and provide information to and from consumers, broadcasters, and new 800 MHz licensees, as well as co-ordinate the use of mitigation options to reduce the potential interference.
The measures that are likely to be necessary and which we set out in the document include:
We propose that the costs of creating this body and the work that it carries out should be borne predominantly by the new licensees of the 800 MHz spectrum.
In this consultation we also set out our proposals for conditions that should be included in new 800MHz licences.