UK Spectrum Policy Forum - C1: Meeting Notes on Longer Term Use of UHF Spectrum

Date: Wednesday 23rd March 2016

Venue: techUK, 10 St Brides, London EC4A 4AD

Chair: Janette Stewart, Principal, Analysys Mason


Cluster 1 workshop on longer term use of UHF spectrum

With European policy being developed on introduction of the 700MHz band for wireless broadband services, and proposals that the spectrum from 470-694MHz should be reserved for downlink-only services, the purpose of this meeting was to explore views amongst UK industry stakeholders on the proposals being made. 


Summary and Presentations
Note: The summary and slides are available to download at the bottom of the page.


Welcome introduction and scene setting
Janette Stewart, Principal, Analysys Mason, Chair of SPF Cluster 1

The Cluster 1 chairman, Janette Stewart from Analysys Mason, described that the purpose of this workshop was to discuss the longer term use of UHF spectrum (e.g. beyond a 2025 timeframe).


European Commission proposals on future use of UHF spectrum
Lluis Borrell, Partner and Head of Media Practice, Analysys Mason

Lluis Borrell, Partner and Head of Media from Analysys Mason, gave an overview of the draft Commission proposals concerning the long term use of 470-790MHz spectrum [1]. He presentation described that the convergence between audio visual and communications is taking place at the service level (i.e. consumers are becoming agnostic to the networks being used for TV viewing), but that, at the network level, technologies used by mobile and broadcast are still defined and implemented separately, with distinct value chains, business models and regulatory frameworks applying. This raised a number of questions in relation to how networks might evolve upon on-going service convergence, and implications for spectrum use, licensing and the regulatory framework for communications and media.


UK policy update
700MHz and approach to UHF spectrum – Brice Le Cannu, Policy Adviser, Spectrum Group, Ofcom

Brice LeCannu, Ofcom’s programme director for work on 700MHz clearance, described the public policy objectives linked to the three current uses of sub-694MHz UHF spectrum in the UK (DTT, audio PMSE, white space devices), which Ofcom has previously consulted on. He described Ofcom’s latest proposals (published 11 March 2016) which proposed to accelerate the timeframes for making the 700MHz band available for mobile broadband use, facilitated by transferring national DTT services into the 600MHz band (and changing the frequencies used by ‘interim’ DTT services). Availability of interleaved spectrum for audio PMSE use will reduce as a result. To address this, Ofcom has proposed that new spectrum – from 960-1164MHz – could be made available for PMSE on a shared basis with existing, aeronautical services use. Finally, Ofcom’s most recent proposals also included a decision that the 700MHz centre gap would be planned for mobile broadband use (e.g. by ‘supplemental downlink’ services). Future consultations from Ofcom will consider how to award the 700MHz band (e.g. competition analysis, coverage obligation, etc.). Ofcom is also monitoring the various market developments relating to future mobile broadband services in the UK (e.g. 5G).

4G/TV co-existence – Ian Dewhurst, Head of Secretariat to 4G/TV Co-ex Board & 700Mhz, DCMS

Ian Dewhurst, Head of Secretariat to 4G/TV Co-ex Board & 700MHz from DCMS described various current work programmes being coordinated by DCMS relating communications infrastructure (e.g. work on ultra-fast broadband). He commented on the rapid pace of development in communications technologies over the past decade and the market indications that there would be now slowdown in these developments. He indicated that DCMS was monitoring 5G developments and was conscious that policy decisions relating to future use of UHF spectrum in the UK must recognise the need to make optimal use of this valuable spectrum in a future market context where UK consumers are less interested in the nature of how content is delivered, but most interested in ensuring that content is available when and where required, irrespective of device or network interface being used.


Broadcaster viewpoints
Future distribution requirements for audio-visual broadcasting – Daniel Wilson, Head of UK Policy, BBC

Daniel Wilson, Head of UK Policy at the BBC, stressed importance of the dates published in the Lamy report in relation to protecting DTT network developments over the next decade. He summarised the importance of the DTT platform for UK TV services. Funding for UK content creation is at the heart of the value proposition for the current platform. He noted that various successful trials had demonstrated use of IP-based networks for live TV in recent years including use of mobile technology for live TV streams. The increasing use and popularity of hybrid platforms (i.e. DTT/IP) was also relevant when considering consumer demand for TV content. The BBC was continuing to work towards delivering live TV content over various platforms, but it must be ensured that networks can cater for broadcast requirements (e.g. in terms of capacity and resilience). Concerns regarding ‘gatekeeping’ exist in relation to use of IP platforms (i.e. platform/provider coming between the broadcaster and the audience) and regulation might be required to manage these risks in future. Finally, the BBC Charter was committed to “serving viewers at the pace they are developing”, which meant addressing both the needs of some viewers where platforms like YouView are driving demand for mass use of IPTV, and others who remain reliant on scheduled TV listings.

Spectrum requirements for audio PMSE – Martyn Lee, Senior Technologist, Sky

Martyn Lee, Senior Technologist at BSkyB, described PMSE audio equipment requirements. He described current use of UHF for PMSE (e.g. Sky currently uses 26 UHF channels at its studios in Osterley, excluding channel 38 equipment). Post the 700MHz clearance, only 27 UHF channels would be available in total (for all PMSE users sharing with DTT). There are issues with using digital equipment. The cost of replacing current equipment with digital products is also a significant issue, particularly given that some current equipment was only purchased for the 800MHz clearance. There is yet to be any formal engagement between the UK Government and the PMSE community regarding any funding of equipment replacement. Ofcom’s proposals to make additional spectrum for PMSE available in the 960-1164MHz band rely on sharing being feasible. Ofcom has undertaken trials into the available capacity and quality of the spectrum for audio PMSE but initial trials have not explored PMSE use either at major TV broadcast centres or at sites with close proximity to UK airports. There are concerns that the new spectrum needs to be tested and confirmed in realistic scenarios (including worst case environments e.g. TV studios close to UK airports). Harmonisation with Europe has not yet been established and may be needed to make the spectrum attractive for equipment vendors to invest in. Finally, the PMSE industry needed a forum in order to discuss strategic matters, and a roadmap (for meeting audio PMSE spectrum needs).


Mobile industry viewpoints
Future spectrum needs for 4G and 5G – Steve Blythe, Director of Spectrum Strategy, Orange Group Spectrum Office

Steve Blythe, Director of Spectrum Strategy at Orange Group outlined why sub-1GHz spectrum is still of vital importance to mobile operators, for various market, network, coverage and capacity reasons. Emerging technologies, such as Licensed Assisted Access (LAA), and offloading to Wi-Fi, will not dramatically affect the amount of mobile data traffic carried on networks using licensed spectrum. There is a need to provide deep indoor coverage and capacity to address market demand. The amount of sub-1GHz spectrum currently available per European MNO for 4G is still fairly limited (noting that 900MHz is expected to be used for 2G and 3G for many years to come). With typically only 2×10MHz of 800MHz spectrum, there is limited 4G capacity that can be provided (using sub-1GHz spectrum alone). Carrier aggregation options with supra 1GHz will assist on achieving higher peak speeds – but are of limited use indoors or at cell edge due to poorer propagation conditions of the higher bands. LTE700 and LTE800 carrier aggregation is expected by 2020, which will reduce the performance difference between different geo-demographic areas, however carrier aggregation of 700MHz FDD with 700MHz supplemental downlink (SDL) is problematic. The range of use cases envisaged for 5G means that higher network performance, capacity and coverage will all be key requirements in future. Operators are unlikely to be in a position to use 800MHz spectrum for 5G initially and 700MHz might also be used for enhancing 4G performance and capacity. On that basis, 5G implementation in Europe could suffer from not having a viable spectrum band for coverage. The lack of a European review of UHF spectrum below 694MHz until 2025 is therefore a problem, as is the danger of Europe being left behind on 5G, particularly when other regions would move ahead (e.g. US 600MHz incentive auction).

Mobile implementation challenges and global harmonisation – Simon Pike, Chief Engineer, Regulatory and Spectrum, Vodafone and Chair of SPF Cluster 4

Simon Pike, chief engineer at Vodafone (and Chair of SPF Cluster 4) gave a presentation on mobile implementation challenges, and global harmonisation. The key factors underpinning a successful eco-system for a mobile band to be implemented in Europe include global economies of scale, ease of implementation in terminals (i.e. within a frequency range already supported by mobile equipment) and ease of addition to existing cell sites, based on existing antennas, band and channel combinations. The potential for sub-700MHz downlink-only LTE technology is uncertain, due to small market size, complex implementation in devices and clash with broader global developments for 600MHz LTE. It is also not clear what sub-700MHz downlink only services might be used for and it could complicate the longer term optimal use of UHF spectrum. There are various global developments on sub-700MHz mobile use suggesting other regions will move ahead with re-assigning sub-694MHz spectrum from DTT to paired mobile use, such as the US 600MHz auction and the suggestion of a 600MHz FDD band plan being developed in ITU-R WP5D, as proposed by New Zealand.


Summary and discussion on next steps
Janette Stewart, Principal, Analysys Mason, Chair of SPF Cluster 1


The meeting concluded with discussion of questions and key issues. The following actions were agreed:

[1] COM(2016) 43 , Brussels 02.02.16, Proposal for a Decision of the European Parliament and of the Council on the use of the 470-790MHz frequency band in the Union

For further information about the UK Spectrum Policy Forum, please get in touch with Skye MacLeod:

Download the summary and slides here:

Janette Stewart, Objectives and work plan for Cluster 1 (pdf)Lluis Borrell, Background and issues arising from the EC... (pdf)Martyn Lee, Spectrum requirements for audio PMSE for UKSPF... (pdf)Steve Blythe, Future spectrum needs for 4G and 5Gv1.pdf (pdf)Simon Pike, Mobile implementation challenges and global... (pdf)Website summary of UHF workshop v3.pdf (pdf)

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