The European Commission wants help in deciding whether or not to allow terrestrial TV to hang on to valuable spectrum.
The Commish launched a public consultation on Monday asking industry, academia and users of TV or wireless broadband to speak their brains on how to proceed in allocating the 700 megahertz band.
Currently, the 700 MHz band (694-790 MHz) is primarily used for free-to-air telly via rooftop antennas, but the frequencies could also provide wireless broadband at higher speeds with better geographical coverage – hence the Commission’s dilemma.
Last September, former director general of the WTO, Pascal Lamy, drew up a couple of recommendations at the behest of "Steelie" Neelie Kroes, then Digital Agenda Commissioner.
Lamy proposed two options. First, a phasing-out of terrestrial TV from the 700 MHz band which would see the bandwidth completely dedicated to wireless broadband across Europe by 2020 (give or take two years). To make this more palatable to broadcasters, he advised “regulatory security and stability for terrestrial broadcasters in the remaining UHF spectrum below 700 MHz until 2030” with a review in 2025 to assess technology and market developments.
The second option would be to allow downlink-only wireless broadband in the 700 MHz band, giving broadcasters priority – an idea that does not sit well with ISPs.
The Commission says it is committed to “breaking down national silos” but urgently wants to define a common position for all EU countries in time for November's World Radiocommunication Conference 2015.
Alongside the potential of wireless broadband services, respondents to the consultation, which will run until April, are urged to consider how future developments in this field could affect the quantity and quality of broadcasting and whether that might mean equipment, including TV sets, will need to be changed or replaced. ®