The role of 700 MHz band and 600 MHz band
Limitation to the availability of additional harmonised mobile broadband at lower frequencies is to be expected. For mobile broadband, use of lower frequency spectrum can be very valuable. The use of lower frequency spectrum could deliver savings in the number of new mobile sites that were to be built to meet up the expected growth in demand for mobile data capacity. It can also provide better service in difficult to reach locations.
For providing additional lower frequency spectrum, the 700 MHz band is the most attractive option but the 700 MHz band is at present being used for delivering DTT and other services on an interleaved basis. The 700 MHz band is being harmonised for mobile broadband and as such there is global momentum behind it. For mobile broadband LTE services 700 MHz band is bring used in the US and Australia, Asia and New Zealand are planning to use 700 MHz band for LTE services. India and many other countries are exploring the possibilities of similar approach.
In the year 2012 at the World Radio Conference (WRC 12), a resolution was passed to enable the 700 MHz band to be used for mobile broadband in Europe, Africa and the Middle East after the next World Radio Conference in 2015. The main reason for this move is that many African countries desire to launch LTE services in the 700 MHz band.
A new international frequency co-ordination agreement is required to enable the use of 700 MHz band for mobile broadband in the UK. This will depend on the position taken by other European countries and it might take years to make a new international frequency co-ordination agreement. Ofcom thinks that this could be achieved only by 2018 if at all there is sufficient agreement in Europe.
The effect of the use of 700 MHz band on DTT and other services
Currently DTT platform is providing universal low cost access to Public Service Broadcasting (PSB) content along with a wider consumer choice of channels and as such DTT platform performs a very important public policy. Even when 700 MHz band is released for mobile broadband, the importance of DTT is likely to remain relevant. DTT platform will continue to be the platform of choice for many viewers. At this stage, for DTT viewers who have no broadband subscription or satellite dish installation, switching to alternative platforms would be very expensive.
It is believed that in the long run universal take-up up of super fast broadband will take place and IPTV services would provide a feasible substitute for the DTT platform. However, this scenario is not a viable option for a shorter time scales.