Ofcom caught between picts and luvvies on 600MHz
3D TV, mobile broadband or give it to Scotland?
Ofcom has published responses to its digital dividend consultation, but respondents seem more interested in feathering their own nests than contributing to the future of broadcasting.
This consultation only covers the lower part of the dividend, and the interleaved spectrum (white spaces), asking stakeholders what the regulator should be doing with the bands, but despite more than two years of discussion and debate, Ofcom seems to be getting no closer to deciding while stakeholders are too busy protecting their own interests to help (Ofcom's 600MHz summary.
The 550MHz to 606MHz band is already empty in most of the country, and will be entirely cleared out by the end of next year. There are also various bands that will be available in specific locations after 2012, known to Ofcom as "interleaved spectrum" and by the rest of the world as part of the "white spaces".
Ofcom reckons businesses might be interested in making use of both bands, but can't decide if they should be auctioned off together or separately. The regulator also wanted to know what kind of protection the industry thought might be appropriate for neighbouring bands, and what the spectrum might be used for.
Most of the respondents reckoned that more TV channels would fit nicely into the band, with one calling for a new Channel 6 to be launched by combining regional TV networks (which sounds familiar). Channel 4 reckons the spectrum should be reserved for TV, while Channel 5 (perhaps more aware of the commercial realities) reckons there's no demand for any more Freeview channels. The government did make noises about reserving the spectrum for local TV services, but not everyone is convinced there's much call for more terrestrial TV - surely Bid Up TV or Dave Ja Vu could make way for such a channel, if there was real call for it.
BBC Alba reckons the spectrum should be given to BBC Alba, at least in Scotland - as if the Gaels aren't getting enough of subsidy for a Gaelic-language TV station. But even more self-interested is the suggestion from Everything Everywhere that the spectrum be shelved against some future Europe-wide mobile broadband project.
Worse still, for Ofcom, the new government has only just started a review of local TV services, and might yet decide to make use of the interleaved spectrum, so no decision can be made on that until the coalition reaches some conclusions on that.
But assuming the coalition leaves the regulator alone then Ofcom will prepare an auction plan for the 600MHz frequencies next year, leaving the interleaved spectrum to some future date depending on what the government decides. That would see the 600MHz band on the auction block by the end of 2011 - but it's a big assumption to make. ®
BBC Alba - a total waste of money
Thank fuck BBC Alba only gets money for 2 or 3 three hours of bagpipes and shortbread broadcasting every week. BBC Alba's ratings are too low to even measure.This is public money getting pissed down the drain. And it's costing tens of thousands per viewer-hour. It would be cheaper to put on a weekly live show in Gaelic at a theatre and FLY in every Gaelic speaker in Scotland to see it.
There are more Urdu or Hebrew speakers in Scotland than there are Gaelic speakers. But they don't get their own TV channel funded by the Beeb. The Gaels could barely fill Hampden Park.
BTW, you say BBC Alba is "not being subsidised" and then say it lives off public money. Do you know the meaning of the word "subsidy?
Already used for DVB-T overseas
According to the spreadsheet I got from France's equivalent to Ofcom, the CSA, they plan to use UHF channels 31 to 39 for 1,237 multiplexes of 9,288 total. Six multiplexes per site, a few sites have a seventh mux, called R15 in CSA's document but L8 according to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/T%C3%A9l%C3%A9vision_Num%C3%A9rique_Terrestre.
There is EU-wide agreement to clear channels 61 and 62 for 800 MHz phones, meaning that users of sites that are using these channels over here will have to retune at some point in the future. There is no agreement on releasing the 600 MHz channels across Europe and there isn't likely to be one. The UK should not be trying to go it alone with an incompatible frequency range.
Many countries need more UHF channels for their digital switchover because they previously still used some VHF channels in Band I (47-88MHz) and Band III (174-230MHz), and these are now to be cleared EU-wide. We turned off TV transmissions - 405-line black-and-white - in Band I and III in 1985, but other countries used these channels for 625-line colour. DAB is designed to use Band III.
Converting terrestrial TV to HD will require more multiplexes, as the physical layer chosen in the UK is incompatible (DVB-T2 rather than DVB-T) and you can only reasonably get four channels into one multiplex in the chosen mode, at the moment. Five might just be possible in a few years, or if the quality is allowed to suffer the way that some of the commercial SD multiplexes have, but there's little point advertising 'HD' resolution and still having horrible compression artifacts.
If there's one thing we DON'T need
It's more TV channels