Kate Bulkley, Media Analyst.

Content: Airwaves: Ofcom's spectrum sale

By Kate Bulkley

The Guardian

January 14th, 2008

Mobile TV will not succeed as fast in the UK as in the rest of Europe unless the UK takes a different approach to spectrum licensing, say industry experts. Ofcom is dragging its feet on licensing spectrum in a frequency range to spark investor confidence and take advantage of economies of scale in equipment, including handsets.

Ofcom will license L-band and 2.6GB bands first, even though many other European countries, including Italy, Sweden, Austria and Germany, are licensing UHF spectrum, which is the same frequency used for broadcast TV. Ofcom says it favours waiting to license UHF until later during the switchover from analogue to digital TV signals, which will free up UHF spectrum.

Meanwhile, Brussels is pushing for standard technology and quick spectrum licensing. The Commission is interested in Europe becoming a world leader in mobile TV as well as having commercial mobile TV rolled out in time for the European Football Championships and the summer Olympic games.

Viviane Reding, the EU Commissioner responsible for information society and media, has endorsed a mobile TV standard called DVB-H (digital video broadcast over handhelds) to standardise the mobile TV market.

Mike Short, head of technology at O2, says the success of mobile TV in the UK will depend on the timing and outcome of the UK spectrum auctions. "Ofcom has a different spectrum policy and therefore investor confidence is less high in the UK. Mobile TV will not be mass market until it is deployed on UHF."

Short points to the ditching by BT last year of its BT Movio service, a mobile TV service that used DAB radio spectrum. "BT Movio had to close down because it used non-standard technology and nonstandard handsets," he says.


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