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EU to evict broadcasters from upper end of spectrum

Ofcom calls it right

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The EU has decided that broadcasters across Europe should clear out of 790-862MHz, committing to a plan accurately predicted by Ofcom.

Ofcom cares because the top end of that band is currently used by the Programme Making and Special Events (PMSE) crowd, whom Ofcom is hoping to relocate down to the dial to somewhere around 606MHz. Assuming that happens, and the other member states are similarly proactive, then kit operating in the EU-wide band could be sold across Europe, and punters might even be able to roam between countries.

The decision (pdf) covers the spectrum between 790MHz and 862MHz, and is intended to prevent any countries broadcasting TV signals while those next door are trying to provide high-speed internet access. But enabling cross-border equipment sales and roaming won't do any harm either.

Not that anyone is yet sure what kind of services will be offered over the Digital Dividend when it comes on line. In the UK the block covered by the decision is just over half what's being auctioned off - another chunk from 550MHz to 606MHz is up for grabs too, putting a total of 128MHz of low-end spectrum on the block.

For comparison, the four competing 3G networks in the UK fit into 120MHz of bandwidth, and let's not forget that Ofcom is planning to auction off 200MHz of 2.6GHz spectrum at the same time. Sometimes it's hard to remember that there's such a shortage of the stuff.

In the UK nothing comes on line until after the Olympics, though Ofcom is still hoping to hold an auction before then.

EU-wide compatibility will drive up the value of the upper block, but with LTE the technology of choice, and a standard band in which to run it, the concept of cross-Europe broadband is possible. Whether any of us will be able to afford the roaming rates is another question entirely. ®

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