On 12 January 2012, we published a second consultation setting out our revised proposals for the auction of the 800 MHz and 2.6 GHz spectrum . This will be the largest ever single auction in the UK of internationally harmonised mobile spectrum.
Historically the 800 MHz spectrum band (790-862 MHz) has been used for terrestrial television broadcasting. However, as a result of digital switchover (DSO), and more recently the clearance of channels 61 and 62, this spectrum has been made available for new mobile services.
The current generation of TVs, set top boxes and equipment used to receive digital terrestrial television (DTT) was designed to receive signals across the whole TV band, including the 800 MHz spectrum. This means that when mobile services begin transmitting in the band, there will be the potential for interference from mobile base stations. This could affect the ability of some people to receive DTT.
On 2 June 2011, we published a consultation setting out our initial proposals for managing coexistence between new mobile services in the 800 MHz band and existing DTT services .
We received 40 responses to the consultation. We considered these carefully and undertook a variety of further work as a result of the comments made by respondents. This included updating our technical and costing models and commissioning consumer research to investigate consumer's ability to self install DTT receiver filters.
Our updated technical analysis shows that without action to mitigate the interference, approximately 2.3m households may lose the ability to access DTT services, either partially or completely. Approximately 40% of households in the UK use DTT as their primary means of accessing TV, so around 900,000 DTT-only households could be affected. This would mean those households losing some or all of their TV channels.
Our June 2011 consultation noted that some decisions raised questions of public policy and as such were for Government to take rather than Ofcom. To assist the Government in taking its decisions we provided updated analysis on the impacts and costs of options for mitigating DTT coexistence issues.
The Government has now taken policy decisions relating to DTT coexistence:
- A single implementation body (referred to as 'MitCo') will be set up to manage the delivery of DTT interference mitigation and provide support to DTT consumers. This will be led by the new 800 MHz licensees.
- MitCo will be provided with funding of 180m. This money is expected to come from the new 800 MHz licensees. Government will bear the risk of any overspend and there will be a 50:50 gainshare of any underspend between new licensees and Government when MitCo is closed down.
- MitCo will provide support to DTT consumers. This will include information and providing DTT receiver filters to households proactively and reactively. Platform changes will also be offered to households where filters do not solve the issue of interference.
- A Supervisory Board will be established to monitor MitCo's performance, and to advise Ofcom accordingly.
- Additional support will be provided to vulnerable consumers, including installation support; approximately £20m of the £180m fund is intended to cover the cost of this support.
This consultation focuses on options for implementing the Government's decisions. In particular, it covers:
- When and how MitCo should be established.
- How the Supervisory Board might be established.
- How the gainshare should be split among new 800 MHz licensees when MitCo is shut down.
- Managing MitCo (through the 800 MHz licensees) using a set of KPIs to ensure MitCo delivers the level of consumer support requested by the Government to a high standard.
- A set of operational conditions that new licensees will automatically have to implement should they, through MitCo, breach any of the KPIs.
- The process for close down of MitCo and managing interference afterwards.
This document sets out for consultation a number of proposals on which we are inviting stakeholder comments. In particular, whilst this consultation document contains a number of specific questions, we are not seeking to limit the issues on which respondents may wish to comment. Respondents are invited to include representations on any issues which they consider to be relevant. Stakeholders should note that although in a number of places we set out a preference for certain options, we are actively considering all options included in this document.
It is our intention to publish a statement on these issues in the summer when we make decisions about the award of the 800 MHz and 2.6 GHz spectrum and publish an Information Memorandum in relation to that award.