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A spectrum of difference

Little room for compromise emerged during‘ The great spectrum debate’, chaired by Informity CEO William Cooper, which opposed public broadcasters and mobile operators, over the release of radio spectrum for mobile data communications. John Giusti, the head of public policy, government and public affairs for the GSM Association made a clear stand for the greater use of spectrum for mobile data.

“This is not just about economic benefit to mobile operators, or to content developers, it is about the economic benefits to the public. If we ask ourselves which industry brings greater economic value, the answer is unambiguous. The mobile sector in the EU in 2013 represented €269 billion, compared with €48 billion for terrestrial television. The amount of tax paid by mobile operators alone reached €53 billion.”

Speaking in the name of the EBU, Simon Fell, its director of technology and innovation, argued on the contrary that the cost of switching over 120 million households to any alternative service would cost billions. “A study we have commissioned from AETHA with the BBC and BNE shows that there is clearly no economic case for switching off existing DTT networks across Europe: indeed the costs of clearing DTT from the spectrum outweigh the benefits by a factor of almost four.”

Former European Commissioner and WTO director general Pascal Lamy’s EC High Level Group report, which notably recommends that the EU should adopt “a common position against the coprimary allocation of the core audiovisual band (470-694 MHz0) to the mobile service at WRC 2015”, is an attempt to broach a compromise.

But as Lars Backlund, secretary general of Sweden-based BNE (Broadcast Networks Europe), indicated, on many issues no consensus was reached. “To discuss further release or co-primary use of spectrum below 700MHZ will severely impact the viability of the terrestrial platform, destroy investment incentives and may cause a regulatory-introduced failure of an industry.”