Wednesday, December 20, 2006

UK: "Digital Dividend" consultants oppose license-free use

UK: "Digital Dividend" consultants oppose license-free use; Ofcom invites other views

Yesterday, UK telecom regulator Ofcom issued a Consultation paper on future uses of the "Digital Dividend" - the frequencies to be released when TV broadcasters migrate from analog to digital transmission.

At the same time, they released a related set of "preparatory reports" by several teams of consultants.

There is a significant difference of opinion between Ofcom and the consultants on the question of whether to reserve "Digital Dividend" frequencies for license exempt applications.

This difference leads Ofcom to encourage the public to use the just-launched consultation to provide better arguments and new proposals for worthwhile license exempt applications in the UHF band.


Yet Ofcom is willing to give license exempt use the benefit of the doubt - at least at this stage of the Review:

"...we propose to make available channel 69 for wireless microphones and similar low power devices such as in-ear monitors; we also propose to deregulate access to most or all of this spectrum, by making access free, on demand, to users, without the need for a licence;

"...we are keen to investigate other potential innovative uses of the spectrum, but so far we have received few specific proposals. We are seeking to gather more evidence through this consultation, so we can make a more informed judgement next year on whether additional spectrum should be set aside for possible low power uses. We are also undertaking a wider review of how to facilitate more licence-exempt use of spectrum...

"[We] are also inviting views on the case for holding back a small amount of spectrum - cleared or interleaved - as an 'innovation reserve'. This would be against the possibility of major technological developments - such as new low power uses - that could find it difficult to access the rest of the spectrum..."

Thus, the 8th question posed in the consultation document deals with these issues:

"Do you consider that additional spectrum from the digital dividend should be reserved for low power applications? If so, please provide as much evidence as possible about the nature of the application and its potential value to society."

The public consultation period began 19 December and runs to 20 March 2007. Details about how to submit comments can be found on the Digital Dividend Review home page.

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