UK: But the final version of Lord Carter's Digital Britain report does not confirm the final destination for PMSE, writes David Davies. As expected, the report endorses Ofcom's recommendation that channels 61, 62 and 69 - the last-named home to the vast majority of current wireless radio systems - be cleared to make way for next generation mobile telecommunications services.
An Ofcom document on the future of the 800MHz band issued in February indicated that the net incremental benefit of reallocating these channels "lies conservatively in the region of £3bn".
But while the prospect of profound change for pro-audio wireless system users is unavoidable, the government has accepted the need to offer financial assistance to the PMSE (performance making & special events) and broadcast sectors, although the mechanism for assessing and processing this has yet to be disclosed.
For PSN-e readers less-than-enthusiastic at the prospect of wading through the full 245-page document, the relevant section occurs on page 78 of Chapter 3 (link below), 'A Competitive Digital Communications Infrastructure'.
"The Government is committed to the timely release of 800 spectrum and will work with Ofcom to understand and meet the technical challenges," states the report. "It has already endorsed Ofcom's proposal setting out its plans to clear channels 61, 62 and 69. The Government will facilitate this re-planning and will meet the costs incurred by broadcasters and PMSE users as a result of these changes."
And, just as there is currently no firm structure for this financial assistance, the ultimate spectrum allocation for PMSE also remains unclear. It is generally thought that PMSE will have access to channel 38 (historically occupied by radio-astronomy) and two blocks of interleaved spectrum, but confirmation is still awaited.
"It's certainly a good thing that, after much discussion and lobbying, the government has accepted the principle of meeting the costs of PMSE's enforced eviction from channel 69," says Alan March, Sennheiser UK's business development specialist and a prime mover behind the BEIRG Steering Committee on the PMSE spectrum issue. "But what about all the other PMSE equipment that is deployed daily across the entire 790-862MHz band? Why should PMSE equipment that operates anywhere in this band be excluded from any potential funding scheme? While covering the cost of replacement or re-tuned kit is to be welcomed, we desperately need to have some certainty, and quickly, about where we will be operating in the future.
"For example, if the replacement for channel 69 is going to be channel 38, then confirmation of this is required sooner rather than later so that manufacturers can actually start to ramp up and build kit that people can buy, safe in the knowledge that it will be future-proofed. As for interleaved spectrum, we need Ofcom to produce accurate whitespace maps as soon as possible, so that the precise nature of post-DSO regional RF environments can be determined, which in turn will enable the industry to plan for its future."
The publication of the full-length Digital Britain report presages the forthcoming departure of Lord Carter (pictured) from the government. A former NTL COO and Ofcom chief executive, Carter has signalled his intention to return to the private sector this summer.
For a full assessment of Digital Britain and its implications for the pro-audio and broadcast sectors, look out for Kevin Hilton's report in the July issue of Pro Sound News Europe.