The UK communications regulator has mapped out its vision of future spectrum access for PMSE users, writes David Davies. Ofcom revealed its proposals in a new consultation document ('Digital dividend: clearing the 800MHz bandwidth'), published on February 2nd as part of the ongoing spectrum review process.
The latest paper addresses the prospective reallocation of the 800MHz band (channels 61-69) in accordance with moves by many other European countries that pave the way for a pan-European IMT band.
In line with this, the regulator outlines the eventual clearing of channels 61, 62 and 69 of both DTT (digital terrestrial television) and PMSE (performance making & special events) users, albeit "in a way that does not adversely affect the important services that would have been provided using this spectrum. This means finding other spectrum that is a suitable replacement for channels 61, 62 and 69. It also means making sure we plan the change from using one set of frequencies to another very carefully so that we avoid any significant adverse effect on the users of DTT (including viewers) and PMSE."
For PMSE, this could spell a relocation from channel 69 to channel 38, historically occupied by radioastronomy. Ofcom has also recommended that a funding package should be put in place to ensure that "existing authorised and planned authorised users" of the present spectrum layout are not liable to additional expenses resulting from the changes.
Although welcoming the document's reassurance that PMSE will retain access to all of its current spectrum until the end of 2012, Alan March (pictured) - Sennheiser UK's business development specialist and a prime mover behind the BEIRG Steering Committee on the issue - is worried about the continuing uncertainty of PMSE's eventual destination. "Ofcom has said that channel 38 is the best option, but has not confirmed it as the replacement," he tells PSN-e. "No manufacturer is going to produce lots of equipment for 38 until they are absolutely sure what is going to happen. The shape, mechanics and allocation of the funding are also uncertain."
March confirms that the political lobbying effort coordinated by Ranelagh International will go on, and calls for as many pro-audio manufacturers as possible to make a contribution. "It's vital that we keep this going," he says.
'Digital dividend: clearing the 800MHz bandwidth' is open to consultation until April 20th. An Ofcom statement on the issue is expected to appear in the summer, while autumn is due to bring an announcement regarding the appointment of a new band manager to administer the spectrum.