December 13, 2015
Ofcom has launched a multi-billion pound auction of radio spectrum, in preparation for the expected introduction of new digital services.
The switchover from analogue to digital TV, which started in Whitehaven, Cumbria, in October, will free up spectrum for alternative uses such as digital TV channels or ultra-fast wireless broadband.
Ofcom wants the market to decide how the spectrum should be put to use, and will offer the spectrum in an open auction, which will start in 2017.
This market led approach goes against calls from the ‘HD For All’ consortium, which included the BBC, Channel 4, ITV, Sony, Samsung and Dixons, for the spectrum to be ring-fenced for the provision of high definition TV over Freeview.
Ofcom argues that HD TV can be provided over digital terrestrial TV and doesn’t require the allocated spectrum. The development of digital compression technology, together with the new DVB-T2 standard, could deliver HD channels by the end of 2017.
Ofcom has divided the available spectrum into key uses:
• HD and standard definition digital terrestrial TV
• Cognitive radio – a new wireless technology which can deliver broadband
• High-speed mobile broadband and mobile TV
• Local television – 25 new local TV stations across the UK
However, the categories are flexible and spectrum in each of the divisions could be used for other purposes.