Consultation on future use of the 700 MHz band - Cost-benefit analysis of changing its use to mobile services

Published: 28 May 2014
Consultation closes: 29 August 2014
Status: Closed (pending statement)

This document sets out our decision to make spectrum in the 700 MHz band available for mobile data use. It follows the consultation document which we published in May 2014. We present our assessment of the costs and benefits of this decision and explain why, having taken consultation responses into account, we expect the benefits will substantially outweigh the costs.

Enabling the 700 MHz band to be used for mobile data will allow mobile networks to provide better performance at a lower cost, which will bring considerable benefits to citizens and consumers.

However, there will also be costs of enabling the change: digital terrestrial television (DTT) and wireless communication for theatrical, musical and sporting events (‘PMSE’ services) currently use the 700 MHz band as well as other frequencies. DTT provides UK viewers with high quality free to view television and PMSE underpins many important cultural and social activities. The change will involve moving parts of these services from the 700 MHz band to other frequencies.

We intend to ensure that the change occurs in a way that safeguards the important benefits that DTT and PMSE services deliver to citizens and consumers. The document explains how it will be possible to make the 700 MHz band available for mobile data use without compromising the benefits provided by DTT or PMSE, and without causing significant disruption to viewers. Viewers will not need to take any action as a result of this change until around 2019. For the vast majority of TV viewers the only impact of this decision will be that they need to retune their televisions.

Our objective is to make the band available for mobile by the start of 2022 and sooner if possible. Given the substantial amount of effort that will be required to give effect to this decision, we will begin implementation work immediately. There will be a number of strands to our work on implementation, involving significant engagement with DTT providers, PMSE stakeholders, Government and representatives of TV viewers. We are also discussing the question of public funding with Government.

As part of further work on the Analysys Mason 700 MHz network cost saving model we have identified an error in how the model allocates traffic between different devices. This error caused the model to underestimate the network cost savings and performance benefits of change of use of the 700 MHz band by around 10%. Correcting this error provides further support for our decision to make spectrum in the 700 MHz band available for mobile data use. As a result we have not amended the statement published on 19/11/14. The table here summarises the impact of correcting the error on the four scenarios discussed in Section 4 of the consultation and statement (see paragraphs 4.25 and 4.43 in the consultation and paragraphs 4.7 and 4.20 in the statement).

This document sets out Ofcom’s views on the development of free to view television in the UK. Free to view TV platforms are those TV services such as Freeview and Freesat that can be accessed without the need for any on-going subscription charges.

This document considers how current free to view TV platforms might need to develop in the future in order to remain competitive and relevant to viewers, as television platforms increasingly deliver both connected services such as catch-up TV and higher quality pictures such as HD services.

The document also considers the potential long-term options for delivering free to view television, including over broadband networks.

This document will be of interest to the TV industry, mobile network operators, policy makers, consumer groups and other organisations with an interest in the development of free to view TV in the UK. It may also be of interest to organisations involved in the current and future delivery of TV over broadband networks.

This document is not a precursor to any specific regulatory decisions. Instead it provides context to our decision making process around a potential change in use of the 700MHz band of spectrum and also to our engagement in international debates around the future of 470 – 694 MHz spectrum. This document also contributes to the wider public debate around the future of free to view television in the UK.

The Future of Free to View TV - A discussion document (PDF, 550.1 KB)

This document should be read in conjunction with two related Ofcom documents published today:


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