Feeds

What will we do with 600MHz?

Local TV for local people ...

Boost IT visibility and business value

4G licences are getting all the attention these days, but the switch to digital released another big chunk of radio spectrum which no one seems to know what to do with.

The 4G licences currently being discussed by Ofcom stretch across 790-862MHz (known as 800MHz), and 2.50-2.69GHz (the 2.6GHz band), but switching off analogue TV has also released a chunk from 550MHz to 606MHz, between the two digital TV bands and with wireless microphones perched on top (at Channel 38, 606-614MHz). But, despite having even better propagation than the hotly anticipated 800MHz band, 600MHz is the unloved sibling that most seem to think will end up carrying local TV, or simply be left to lie fallow while network operators pack 800MHz fit to burst.

The problem is standardisation. While 800MHz (and 2.6GHz) are both being standardised for 4G across Europe and by extension the world, 600MHz is just a UK thing.

Most countries are planning to continue broadcasting TV on that band, digital or otherwise, and while we could do that too, there's not a lot of appetite for more broadcast TV in a country full of iPlayer viewers and YouView boxes.

That was the conclusion reached in last year's consultation on the subject (64-page PDF/859 KB): most respondents seem to think that broadcast TV is the most likely thing to fill the space. It seems that only Channel 4 could muster any interest in reserving the spectrum for some more High Definition channels – the 600MHz band could fit one national multiplex, carrying six HD channels – and Channel Five was equally adamant that there's no demand for additional free-to-air broadcast capacity.

With no national broadcasters interested, the government has high hopes for community TV stations, operating along the lines of Community Radio – local television for local people, run on a not-for-profit basis for the good of the community. Given the number of Reg readers already involved in pirate, and community, radio you will probably be the ones asked to run local TV stations too. It's very questionable whether there's enough quality content to make such a project viable, and the government has told Ofcom it doesn't want 600MHz reserved for broadcast TV, so what else could we use it for?

Mobile telephony would seem the obvious application – we're always being told there isn't enough bandwidth to go around – but without international agreements, it's hard to make use of new bands. LTE (4G) will happily run down at 600MHz, and GSM is still to be found around 450MHz in some parts of the world, but adding another frequency band means adding another place where a mobile handset will have to search for a signal when it's switched on.

Already a phone must scan through 12 frequency slots at 2.1GHz to check for a 3G signal, checking each received signal against a list of roaming partners stored on the SIM. Handsets supporting UMTS900 will want to check five slots at 900MHz too (and if the user is on O2, and in London, then it might just find one), but if that fails then the handset will have to check three or four GSM bands (there are 14 such bands, but most handsets only support around four), and each of those has its own slots too. That's before we start to talk about UMTS1800, and LTE popping up at 800MHz, 2.6GHz and just about everywhere else.

The essential guide to IT transformation

More from The Register

next story
UK fuzz want PINCODES on ALL mobile phones
Met Police calls for mandatory passwords on all new mobes
Canadian ISP Shaw falls over with 'routing' sickness
How sure are you of cloud computing now?
Don't call it throttling: Ericsson 'priority' tech gives users their own slice of spectrum
Actually it's a nifty trick - at least you'll pay for what you get
Three floats Jolla in Hong Kong: Says Sailfish is '3rd option'
Network throws hat into ring with Linux-powered handsets
Fifteen zero days found in hacker router comp romp
Four routers rooted in SOHOpelessly Broken challenge
New Sprint CEO says he will lower axe on staff – but prices come first
'Very disruptive' new rates to be revealed next week
US TV stations bowl sueball directly at FCC's spectrum mega-sale
Broadcasters upset about coverage and cost as they shift up and down the dials
Trans-Pacific: Google spaffs cash on FAST undersea packet-flinging
One of 6 backers for new 60 Tbps cable to hook US to Japan
Tech city types developing 'Google Glass for the blind' app
An app and service where other people 'see' for you
UK mobile coverage is BETTER than EVER, networks tell Ofcom
Regulator swallows this line and parrots it back out at us. What are they playing at?
prev story

Whitepapers

5 things you didn’t know about cloud backup
IT departments are embracing cloud backup, but there’s a lot you need to know before choosing a service provider. Learn all the critical things you need to know.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Build a business case: developing custom apps
Learn how to maximize the value of custom applications by accelerating and simplifying their development.
Rethinking backup and recovery in the modern data center
Combining intelligence, operational analytics, and automation to enable efficient, data-driven IT organizations using the HP ABR approach.
Next gen security for virtualised datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.