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EU eyes UHF spectrum: What do you think, biz bods... broadband?

Steelie Neelie gives ex-WTO boss six months to gather opinions

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The European Union has formed a new advisory group to work out what the future uses of the UHF spectrum band (470-790MHz) should be. And the list of representatives to the board reflects a more political than technical take on this, with company presidents and director generals listed rather than CTOs.

The advisory group will be led by Pascal Lamy, former chief of the World Trade Organisation and European commissioner. The group is working to an unusually tight deadline of July at the insistence of "Steelie" Neelie Kroes, the EU digital commissioner.

The group will help the commission develop, in cooperation with the member states, a long-term strategic and regulatory policy on the future use of the entire UHF band, including possibilities for sharing parts of the band.

In a canned statement Kroes said: "The TV viewing habits of young people bear no resemblance to that of my generation. The rules need to catch up in a way that delivers more and better television and more and better broadband. Current spectrum assignments won’t support consumer habits of the future – based on huge amounts of audiovisual consumption through broadband and IPTV.”

In particular the group has been set the task of defining what the next generation of terrestrial TV, including linear will look like, how to secure the public interest and consumer benefits as the market changes and the financial implications of these, and the importance of strategic elements of UHF.

Comment: It's not like people watch TV any more

This is as much about consumer insights as it is about technology. Will tablets and phablets mean that people actually want over-the-air mobile TV? They didn’t want it last time around with DVB-h, but LTE has a TV standard called MBMS which is aimed at doing the same thing - albeit with a better solution for the back channel.

It’s generally held that rights negotiations and politics had as much to do with the death of DVB-H and mobile TV as technology so one of the things the board will have to consider is if that still holds. The members of the group are drawn from broadcasters, broadcast network operators, mobile network operators and trade associations. Among the broadcasters is James Purnell from the BBC, who joins colleagues from Mediaset in Italy, ARD in Germany and MTV Media in Finland. The broadcast network operators are represented by TDF in France, Albertis Telecom in Spain and Croatia's OiV.

The mobile operators include representatives from Vodafone, Deutsche Telekom, Telefonica, Orange, Teliasonera and KPN. Among the trade associations is the GSMA, represented by ex-Orange director general Anne Bouverot.

The end result of all these people meeting will be a report and a recommendation. While it’s being done because the broadcast industry wants certainty, there is nothing binding about the results of these deliberations, and for that reason alone the six-month deadline seems achievable. ®

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