Digital dividend: 600 MHz band and geographic interleaved spectrum - Consultation on potential uses

21 April 2009

Executive summary

1.1 The 600 MHz band and geographic interleaved spectrum are part of the UK's digital dividend that will be freed up for new uses with the switchover from analogue to digital terrestrial television (DTT) that is due to be completed in 2012. We are considering how to make the spectrum available in ways that best suit the needs of potential users, in order to maximise the total value to society they generate over time. We intend to publish proposals on this later in 2010.

1.2 This consultation aims to:

  • update stakeholders on spectrum availability, how developments have changed this and how technical considerations may affect spectrum use; and
  • seek stakeholders' input on potential uses of the spectrum and on their level of interest in acquiring it. This information will help us develop proposals on how best to make the spectrum available.

1.3 In summer 2008, we consulted on the detailed design of the digital-dividend awards. At that time, we proposed to award the upper and lower bands of cleared spectrum together and to hold a series of awards of geographic lots of interleaved spectrum.

1.4 Several important developments have since caused us to reconsider our summer 2008 proposals. The main one is our decision to align our upper cleared band with the 800 MHz band identified for release by an increasing number of other European countries. This means clearing some existing and planned authorised uses from the 800 MHz band and negotiating new DTT allocations with neighbouring countries. There will be knock-on effects for the lower cleared (600 MHz) band and geographic interleaved spectrum in terms of both what we can award and when we can award it. We will not know precisely what they are until those negotiations are completed, probably later in 2010.

1.5 In reconsidering the award of this spectrum, we want to take into account how demand for it might have changed since summer 2008. This may be particularly relevant to the 600 MHz band now that the 800 MHz band is much more likely to be used for new mobile-broadband applications. But there may also be other potential uses and users for the geographic interleaved spectrum that could affect how we design its award. We will look in particular at the benefits that could arise from combining some geographic interleaved lots with the 600 MHz band.

1.6 There is a wide range of potential uses of this spectrum, the most likely of which appear to be DTT and mobile broadband alongside others including mobile multimedia services (MMS e.g. mobile television), programme making and special events (PMSE), broadband wireless access (BWA) and communications for the emergency services. We consider each in turn and ask for stakeholders' views on these and any other potential uses. Our assessment takes into account the spectrum likely to be available and the likely technical constraints on its use. We also look at whether there may be distinctive considerations and uses in the nations and regions of the UK.

1.7 We expect to publish proposals for consultation on packaging and award design when there is greater certainty over what spectrum will be available for award. This is likely to happen when international negotiations are further advanced later in 2010. In order to be in a position to publish our proposals as soon as possible, we will start to develop them before completion of these negotiations. The information we receive in response to this consultation will help us in this work.

1.8 Our aim is to be in a position to award the spectrum so that new use can be made of it from the end of digital switchover (DSO) in late 2012.