Feeds

Radio society responds to radio selloff

Difficult details, dodgy premise

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

The RSGB reckons that 500MHz of spectrum, which the Ministry of Fun wants to see sold off by 2020, isn't empty, and hasn't much application anyway.

In an open response to the Ministry's proposals, which explain how it plans to find huge swaths of spectrum with which to meet the insatiable demand for more bandwidth, the Radio Society of Great Britain points out that many of the identified bands aren't empty, that even if they were, hardly anyone can use them, and that it is far from clear if anyone wants such an enormous amount of bandwidth anyway.

The insatiable demand is based on the idea that existing trends will continue, that users will consume an ever-increasing amount of bandwidth. That's obviously baloney: the same process can be used to prove that by 2019 a third of us will be working as Elvis impersonators, if trends up to the year 2000 had continued. Clearly the world has a limited apatite for imitations of The King, and additional value of bandwidth equally suffers from diminishing returns.

In its response (PDF, nice picture of a moonbounce dish at the end) the RSGB points out that 3G-TDD spectrum (held by all the UK operators except Vodafone since 2000) is still empty despite the widely perceived shortage, and that Qualcomm has been sitting on 40MHz of L-Band spectrum (1452-1492MHz) for two years after having shelved its mobile TV plans.

If we were really so desperately short of frequencies, goes the argument, then surely these gaps would have been filled. One would also expect some interest in the 50MHz of digital dividend at 600MHz, which no one seems to want despite its excellent propagation characteristics.

The free-up-500MHz-of-bandwidth plan was inherited by the Ministry of Culture, Media and Sport (aka Fun) when it took over spectrum management from Business, Innovation and Skills, and followed a US paper proposing the same thing. Ofcom wisely distanced itself from the plan when it was announced, saying it is happy to make the arrangements but deciding what to do with government-owned spectrum is a government job.

To understand why radio spectrum got shifted into the Ministry of Fun you have to remember how important the London Olympics are to the government, and how important radio spectrum will be to the Olympics, but the portfolio includes future planning and thus the task of finding some bandwidth to sell off.

The consultation put out by the Ministry (pdf, like an Ofcom one but with pictures) mainly lists Ministry of Defence spectrum as being suitable for reallocation into the open market, which sounds great until one realises what a sharing organisation the MoD is when it comes to radio frequencies. Massive amounts of spectrum are nominally allocated to the MoD, but sublet to other users on the condition they switch off if and when the military needs it. Amateur radio hobbyists (represented by the RSGB) are heavy users of MoD spectrum.

But the thrust of the RSGB's comment is that the Ministry seems to have neglected the widely divergent values of radio spectrum, and that much of the spectrum it has identified as available is next to worthless, if only because the world has decided to make it so.

Radio technologies rise and fall on standards and mass production. The operators who'll be bidding a fortune for the 800MHz band next year aren't interested in 600MHz simply because no one is making equipment which operates in that band: the valuable frequencies are the ones people can use, and use cheaply.

The RSGB's response asks the Ministry to accelerate the release of internationally agreed bands, and hold back on pushing out more spectrum until all the users (not just the allocated holders) have been considered, which makes a lot of sense even if you're not a bearded radio ham. ®

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
Brit telcos warn Scots that voting Yes could lead to HEFTY bills
BT and Co: Independence vote likely to mean 'increased costs'
Phones 4u slips into administration after EE cuts ties with Brit mobe retailer
More than 5,500 jobs could be axed if rescue mission fails
New 'Cosmos' browser surfs the net by TXT alone
No data plan? No WiFi? No worries ... except sluggish download speed
Radio hams can encrypt, in emergencies, says Ofcom
Consultation promises new spectrum and hints at relaxed licence conditions
Google+ GOING, GOING ... ? Newbie Gmailers no longer forced into mandatory ID slurp
Mountain View distances itself from lame 'network thingy'
Vodafone to buy 140 Phones 4u stores from stricken retailer
887 jobs 'preserved' in the process, says administrator PwC
Bonking with Apple has POUNDED mobe operators' wallets
... into submission. Weve squeals, ditches payment plans
Drag queens: Oh, don't be so bitchy, Facebook! Let us use our stage names
Handbags at dawn over free content ad network's ID policy
Comcast exec: No, we haven't banned Tor. I use it. You're probably using it
Keep in mind if, say, your Onion browser craps out on Xfinity
prev story

Whitepapers

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops
Balancing user privacy and privileged access, in accordance with compliance frameworks and legislation. Evaluating any potential remote control choice.
Intelligent flash storage arrays
Tegile Intelligent Storage Arrays with IntelliFlash helps IT boost storage utilization and effciency while delivering unmatched storage savings and performance.
WIN a very cool portable ZX Spectrum
Win a one-off portable Spectrum built by legendary hardware hacker Ben Heck
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Beginner's guide to SSL certificates
De-mystify the technology involved and give you the information you need to make the best decision when considering your online security options.