Monday, February 13, 2012

Interference Problems Loom for Terrestrial Broadcasters

Looks like things are going seriously wrong at the World Radio Conference in Geneva - at least if you're a broadcaster operating in Europe or Africa. Last minute changes to the agenda backed by the mobile industry are to blame. The problem is that spectrum issues are difficult for most people to understand at the best of times. The EBU Technical department made this video a few years back, which could not be more topical right at this moment. For that reason, I've posted it here.

European Broadcasting Union warns that spectrum management talks might be put at risk at this year's World Radio Conference (WRC-12) which is currently taking place in Geneva. The Radio Spectrum Policy Programme (RSPP), that will be approved this week by the European Parliament, is Europe's five-year policy programme to strategically plan and harmonise the use of spectrum in order to ensure the functioning of the internal market. The RSPP proposals strike a fair balance: mobile operators are able to increase wireless data traffic, while Member States, in cooperation with the EU Commission, must ensure sufficient spectrum availability for broadcasting services. EBU Members will therefore be able to continue to deliver and develop new innovative services and applications for EU audiences on terrestrial platforms.

So what's the problem? After pressure from the African and Arab regional administrations, delegations at the World Radio Conference are currently looking to allocate the 700MHz band (694-790 MHz) to mobile services.  Such a decision would cause considerable problems in Europe, where the 700MHz band is heavily used for terrestrial broadcasting with, in many cases, long-term licensing arrangements in place.  It would cause considerable disruption, additional expense and loss of services for millions of viewers across Europe. Broadcasters also consider this band as being crucial to the future development of innovative new terrestrial services.

The RSPP instead refers to existing spectrum legislation, the EU Telecom Package, and urges future spectrum policies to be in line with its core message: spectrum is a scarce public resource which must be managed with ‘special attention’, striking a balance between economic, cultural and social values in the public interest.

EBU made this video a few years back (I recognise the living room as being actually a corridor shot inside the EBU Building). But it describes the problem that now threatens to develop in Geneva.
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